NASA’s James Webb Telescope captured astonishing images of Jupiter that revealed an unusual weather phenomena in the planet’s atmosphere that researchers have never seen before. The astronomers spotted a high-speed jet stream in Jupiter’s atmosphere just over the equator about 25 miles above the cloud layer. Incredibly, the jet stream is more than 3,000 miles wide and travels around 320 miles per hour, “twice the sustained winds of a Category 5 hurricane here on Earth,” according to NASA.

“This is something that totally surprised us, said University of the Basque Country physicist Ricardo Hueso who co-authored the study reporting these results in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

From CNN:

Researchers compared winds detected by Webb at high altitudes with those within the lower layers picked up by [the] Hubble [Space Telescope] and tracked changes in wind speed. Both space observatories were necessary to detect the jet stream, as Webb spotted small cloud features and Hubble provided a look at the equatorial atmosphere, including storms not related to the jet. The two telescopes provided a broader look at Jupiter’s complex atmosphere and the processes taking place within the layers.

“We knew the different wavelengths of Webb and Hubble would reveal the three-dimensional structure of storm clouds, but we were also able to use the timing of the data to see how rapidly storms develop,” said study coauthor Michael Wong, planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the associated Hubble observations, in a statement.

From NASA: This image of Jupiter from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) shows stunning details of the majestic planet in infrared light. In this image, brightness indicates high altitude. The numerous bright white ‘spots’ and ‘streaks’ are likely very high-altitude cloud tops of condensed convective storms. Auroras, appearing in red in this image, extend to higher altitudes above both the northern and southern poles of the planet. By contrast, dark ribbons north of the equatorial region have little cloud cover. In Webb’s images of Jupiter from July 2022, researchers recently discovered a narrow jet stream traveling 320 miles per hour (515 kilometers per hour) sitting over Jupiter’s equator above the main cloud decks. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, R. Hueso (University of the Basque Country), I. de Pater (University of California, Berkeley), T. Fouchet (Observatory of Paris), L. Fletcher (University of Leicester), M. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), J. DePasquale (STScI)

(Thanks, Jason Weisberger!)

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