Invisible waves disrupt jet stream on Jupiter

NASA footage captures meandering jet stream for the first time

Published: March 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

A line of V-shaped chevrons travel west to east above Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


NASA has released the first ever collection of films capturing the movement of waves in one of Jupiter’s jet streams.

The footage was pieced together using images taken by the Cassini spacecraft during a flyby of the gas giant back in 2000, and clearly illustrates a major disruption to one of the planets characteristically linear jet streams.

Just like Earth, Jupiter has a number of jet streams, fast flowing high-altitude winds, circling the planet.

Earth’s jet streams however, are often knocked off course by forces contained within them called Rossby waves, caused by contrasting temperatures and topography on the Earth’s surface.

Up until now, although Rossby waves had been identified on the planet, Jupiter’s jet streams have always appeared straight and narrow, with no evidence of interference.

On top of the data compiled by Cassini, NASA relied heavily on the work of amateur astronomers, who have been charting the movement of storms on Jupiter, to identify the effect of Rossby waves on the planet’s atmosphere.


NASA hopes this new information could help reveal more about Jupiter’s hidden, deep atmosphere as well as answering fundamental questions about the nature of planetary atmospheres and models of their behaviour.


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