HomeAstronomy & SpaceAstronomyVLA and ALMA study Jupiter and Io

VLA and ALMA study Jupiter and Io

Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) of the National Science Foundation frequently reveal important new facts about objects far beyond our own Milky Way Galaxy. They are also critical tools for unravelling much closer mysteries.

A pair of recent papers show how these telescopes are assisting planetary scientists in understanding the inner workings of Jupiter and its innermost moon Io.

Jupiter’s atmosphere is complex and dynamic. Scientists combined observations made with instruments aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter with observations made with the VLA to study the giant planet’s atmosphere at various depths. They gathered information on the distribution of the trace gas ammonia at various levels in the atmosphere. It will aid in determining the vertical structure of the atmosphere.

These observations had to be detailed enough to understand vertical transport in the atmosphere. It combined Juno’s long wavelength observations with the VLA’s high-frequency resolution. The ground-based VLA observations had a spatial resolution comparable to that of the instrument aboard the spacecraft orbiting the planet. These observations resulted in the highest-resolution radio image of Jupiter ever created. This technique is assisting scientists in better understanding Jupiter’s deep atmosphere.

Io is the most volcanically active body in our solar system. It has an interior that is constantly heated by strong gravitational tidal forces. The moon’s atmosphere is primarily composed of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2). It is produced by the moon’s many volcanoes and the sublimation of its SO2 surface frost.

ALMA has been used by scientists to study the trace gases Sodium Chloride (NaCl) and Potassium Chloride (KCl) in the atmosphere. They discovered that these compounds are mostly confined and at high temperatures are expelled by volcanoes.

They also discovered that they are in different locations than the volcanoes that emit SO2. It implies that there may be differences in the subsurface magma or eruptive processes between the volcanoes that emit SO2 and those that emit NaCl and KCl.

Both papers are available on the arXiv preprint server.

More information: Chris Moeckel et al, Ammonia Abundance Derived from Juno MWR and VLA Observations of Jupiter, arXiv (2022). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2209.03513

Erin Redwing et al, NaCl & KCl in Io’s Atmosphere, arXiv (2022). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2209.12974


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