Atmosphere and characteristics of Jupiter

Essay by zenabby123A+, March 2003

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Bizarre, colorful clouds of methane and ammonia compounds ripple through the turbulence of the Jovian atmosphere.

When we look at Jupiter, whether it be through a telescope, or from spacecraft images. shows not the surface of the planet, but the atmosphere. The atmosphere appears as alternating bands of light regions, called zones, and dark regions called belts, that run parallel to the equator. The zones are higher in altitude than the belts, and are correspondingly lower in temperature. It is believed that the belts represent descending areas of low pressure. Jupiter radiates heat energy out to space by way of convection. The zones carry energy to the surface and then cool, and sink again.

The entire atmospheric structure is about 1000 km thick, but there does not appear to be any distinct boundary between the atmosphere and what lies below. Apparently it just gets denser until it reaches a total liquid state.

The king of planets is aptly named because it not only has the most dynamic atmospheric motion but also the most riveting cloud patterns and storms, and the most majestic appearance of the giant planets. The dramatic appearance of Jupiter stems partially because the composition of Jupiter's atmosphere includes complicated molecules such as ammonia and methane, as well as simple molecules such as helium, hydrogen, and sulfur.

The atmosphere of Jupiter is only a narrow surface layer, compared to the vast interior of the planet. The three cloud decks of Jupiter are to be found at different levels in the troposphere while hazes of smog can be found higher in the atmosphere. Jupiter's composition is nearly an exact copy of the Sun. There is about 82 % hydrogen, 18 % helium and traces of nearly all other elements. Most of this is in the form of molecular compounds,