The European Southern Observatory reported that astronomers were able to record stratospheric winds on Jupiter and calculate their speed the first time. The speed reaches 1,450 km/h. They are three times faster than the strongest tornadoes on Earth.
It is impossible to measure wind speed in the stratosphere of a planet using the cloud tracking method, since there are no clouds there. However, scientists have managed to find an alternative way to do it.
In 1994, Jupiter collided with a comet. As a result, new molecules appeared in the giant planet's stratosphere, which since then remain there and are carried by the winds.
Astronomers watched the movement of one type of molecule, hydrogen cyanide, to measure stratospheric "jets." This is what scientists call narrow wind strips, similar to wind jets in the Earth's atmosphere.
Scientists have calculated that the jets' speed near the poles reached 400 m/s, or 1450 km/h, which is three times more than the speed of the most powerful tornadoes on Earth. In addition, near the planet's equator, the average speed of stratospheric winds reaches 600 km/h.
"Our detection indicates that these jets could behave like a giant vortex with a diameter of up to four times that of Earth, and some 900 kilometres in height," explains co-author Bilal Benmahi, also of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux. "A vortex of this size would be a unique meteorological beast in our Solar System," Cavalié adds.
Astronomers used to know about strong winds near the poles of Jupiter, but then they studied the places higher than those they explored this time. Early research indicated that winds in the upper atmosphere would slow down and disappear before reaching the stratosphere. However, new data show that this is not the case, and powerful winds remain in the stratosphere.