Using the Very Large Array in New Mexico, a team led by the University of California, Berkeley, has produced a map of Jupiter s atmosphere down to 100 km 60 miles depth, revealing the gas giant s noxious, ammonia-rich clouds and atmospheric circulation patterns in unprecedented detail.
But it s also a mere taste of what s to come later this summer, when NASA s Juno Mission begins probing into the entirely unexplored region at Jupiter s core.
But while previous studies have been limited to specific latitudes, a recent upgrade to the Very Large Array — one of the world s premier radio observatories — has now enabled scientists to build a global picture, albeit a limited one.
Alternating ammonia hotspots and deserts helps explain why, when NASA s Galileo probe made its suicide plunge into Jupiter s atmosphere in 1995, it recorded nitrogen levels much higher than planetary scientists expected.
Whatever processes caused Jupiter to be enriched in heavier elements may have laid the groundwork for the formation of Earth, Venus, and Mars.
But we can t be certain until we have a better idea of what s really cooking inside our friendly neighbourhood gas giant s core.