Research

Jupiter’s Belts and Zones

Jupiter’s distinctive bands of colored clouds, known as belts and zones, have been an iconic part of the planet since they were first observed by Galileo. (The scientist, not the space mission!) They are considered part of Jupiter’s weather layer, the region of its atmosphere where storms reign. Thanks to gravitational measurements by the Juno spacecraft, we now know how deep these bands persist; they stretch about 3,000 kilometers into Jupiter! That means that Jupiter’s weather layer accounts for about one percent of the planet’s total mass. By comparison, Earth’s entire atmosphere makes up less than one millionth of its mass. What lies beneath Jupiter’s colorful clouds is also intriguing. The same gravitational measurements that indicate the weather layer’s depth also suggest that, beneath these storms, the rest of Jupiter rotates like a solid body. (Image credit: NASA, source; research credit: Y. Kaspi et al., submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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