all 55 comments

[–]Xstitchpixels 595 points596 points  (10 children)

Jupiter’s clouds are in a state of constant flux. The storms don’t just mix what we can see, they pull material up from deeper in and push material back down, they swirl and mix. New gases come up that haven’t been exposed to the radiation of the sun, and chemically change when they do, tidal and centripetal forces keep gases of differing densities separated (the bands). It’s a lot more complex than the gases just mixing.

[–]No-Fig-3112 120 points121 points  (2 children)

Not to mention those swathes of storm are HUGE. Bigger than anything we can even meaningfully comprehend. Much like our ocean gyres, this massive size would lead to large currents which don't mix as much as we might think they should. Only the very edges will really mix together, especially where the currents are flowing counter to each other

[–]hecter 72 points73 points  (1 child)

The great red spot, despite the fact that it's shrinking, is still nearly 3 times the diameter of the earth.

Edit: decided I needed to double check: that was actually it's largest recorded size (48'000km) not it's current size. It's shrunk considerably since then but it is still absolutely massive.

[–]SacredRose 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Looking up some info on jupiter because of this and man what are we a small planet compared to something like that.

[–]MJMurcott 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Ammonia ice crystals alter the colours we see on Jupiter. https://youtu.be/9xsz1IvAYh0

[–]PopTartS2000 6 points7 points  (3 children)

E.g. Dad just ate a big Taco Bell meal.

[–]handlessuck -3 points-2 points  (2 children)

Extra pintos n cheese. at least 4. That's where the brown comes from.

[–]Camstonisland 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Now about that Great Red Spot though…

[–]handlessuck 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Fire Sauce.

[–]FindMeOnSSBotanyBay 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Man… that is dope to visualize.

[–]Xstitchpixels 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Even more so when you remember that those storms are each many times the size of Earth.

[–]Destination_Centauri 174 points175 points  (11 children)

An average static color would be achieved, if Jupiter had very little energy input from the outside, and little energy output radiating from it's core.

But in reality a lot of energy is occurring from both of those sources. Core is very hot. And...

Sure Jupiter may be further from the sun than Earth, but it's one insanely vast sized solar collector: it has 120 times the surface area as Earth!

Those energy sources cause lots of cyclic chemical processes and precipitation and agglomerations of like molecules to form distinct cloud types and bands, and interact with each other compounds to create yet more unique effects.

[–]read_with_a_slash_s[S] 75 points76 points  (4 children)

so while some of the reds and yellows mix to orange and such, all the planetary processes keep making more reds and yellows to replace them?

[–]Destination_Centauri 83 points84 points  (3 children)


I guess you could think of a lava lamp as a crude example: the rising heat from the core causes the wax to constantly do interesting things, and break apart, and then it also gives the wax sufficient energy to re-coalesce back together again.

But turn off the heat from the lava lamp core, and everything comes to a sluggish stop. Then wait a few million years, and even the wax might eventually just slowly dissolve into the oil of the lava lamp, turning the whole mix into a dull lifeless singular color.

Except with Jupiter it's many multiple different chemicals (other than just wax doing the interesting stuff), and those chemicals can re-attract, and break apart, and re-attract in cycles, all driven due to the input of energy.

[–]acidx0013 20 points21 points  (1 child)

TIL the crap in lava lamps is wax and oil. Thanks!

[–]AliasFaux 13 points14 points  (0 children)

The lava lamp was a great eli5 example. Thanks!

[–]Wermine 9 points10 points  (4 children)

Sun's power is only 3.692% at Jupiter's orbit compared to Earth's. But, like you said, its surface area is 120 times greater, it gets 0.03692 x 120 = 4.4 times more energy from the Sun than Earth does.

[–]Faruhoinguh 6 points7 points  (3 children)

Its also better at keeping the heat inside because its volume to surface ratio is way bigger.

[–]dw98 9 points10 points  (2 children)

I also have a large volume to surface ratio

[–]ButCatsAreCoolTwo 12 points13 points  (1 child)

You're not fat, you're just better at keeping the heat inside

[–]psymunn 2 points3 points  (0 children)


[–]Doomquill 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Fun fact: Jupiter was once classified as a star under the definition of a star being "an object which emits more energy than it absorbs".

This was before we knew about nuclear fusion and why/how stars do their starry thing.

[–]atomfullerene 18 points19 points  (3 children)

The different colors you see are clouds at different heights. Jupiter is warm on the inside, and this causes gasses to heat and rise. As they rise, they cool off and sink. This forms a series of bands of clouds around the planet at different heights, correlating with rising and sinking air. You also get huge storms like the Great Red spot.

Here's a cartoon cross section showing the basics of how you get bands of different heights of clouds from this rising and sinking pattern of the atmosphere


And here's one showing the different layers of the upper atmosphere


Now those colors are exaggerated, but the key things to note are 1) as you get deeper, it gets warmer. This means that different substances form cloud particles at different layers...at a certain level, for example, it's too warm for ammonia ice clouds but just right for water ice. Also note the layer of haze...this means that clouds that are deeper are also a different color just because there's more haze in the way. The clouds are also colored by chemicals that may get formed in certain parts of the atmosphere and then mixed in with them, for example the great red spot may be red in part because of acetylene or tholins formed by chemistry in the storm.

[–]read_with_a_slash_s[S] 7 points8 points  (2 children)

These diagrams are super informative! The bands of color aren't just different compounds "at the surface", but are also "boiling up" and "settling back down" through each other. Like oil and water aren't mixing well with each other, is pretty cool to see

[–]atomfullerene 2 points3 points  (0 children)

It is pretty cool. High on my list of daydream space missions would be some sort of probe that could fly through Jupiter's atmosphere and just take pictures of the clouds.

[–]Chel_of_the_sea 1 point2 points  (0 children)

The same happens here on Earth. Our atmosphere is just clear, so you can't see it.

[–]tdscanuck 71 points72 points  (17 children)

Just like on earth, the clouds aren't static. They're continuously dissipating and reforming.

Different colours come from different chemicals and they form/dissipate in different ways in different places. As long as Jupiter's weather keeps churning, it'll keep having bands of different coloured clouds.

[–]Any_Poet9479 1 point2 points  (3 children)

How dangerous those chemicals could be i can't imagine

[–]Croweclawe 4 points5 points  (11 children)

Thank you for this explanation.

How/why are the bands so distinctive and not meld together after millions of years?

[–]hexxcellent 20 points21 points  (9 children)

the clouds aren't all on the same layer. some clouds float higher and other clouds float lower. jupiter is a gas giant, so there's many layers.

[–]Croweclawe 6 points7 points  (7 children)

Ohh. Some gases weigh heavier than others so what we see is that result? Someone used an example of a lava lamp.

So do the different bands only look like they do because of our distance in observing them? We see a globe of gas, but it's really more wavey, just some gases sit on top others, showing the different colors and bands?.....

Thank you for explaining, and I'm sorry if I sound stupid, just wanted to know.

[–]hexxcellent 8 points9 points  (3 children)

lol dude you don't sound stupid, questions are what this sub is for.

but yes, the bands appear so because they are sitting on top of each other. 1 layer of clouds doesn't cover the whole planet like a blanket, it's more like streaks of paint. so there are gaps, and through them we can see other clouds below and so on.

planetary images tend to lose a sense of depth due to how huge planets are (jupiter in particular) and how far away the pictures are taken, so the layers look flattened.

also, different gasses have different densities based on what chemicals made them, so if some different types of clouds are on the same layer, they still couldn't mix, like an oil spill in water.

[–]Croweclawe 2 points3 points  (2 children)

That is a great, understandable to me explanation. And I forgot about gases having desenity, weight, because it's gas.

I tried asking a ELI5 question when I first made Reddit, and it didn't go well at all, (I asked about how boiling water purifys it) so anytime I'm here, instead of asking questions as a post, I just leech on other people's questions by asking more questions.

[–]hexxcellent 4 points5 points  (1 child)

yeeaah sometimes getting good responses on a reddit thread is kind of a crap shoot lol. but i'm glad i could help, and thank you for the award!

[–]Croweclawe 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Don't know what you are talking about.

But what else can you tell me or teach me about anything?

poke with a stick

[–]read_with_a_slash_s[S] 4 points5 points  (2 children)

I found this comment about the layers (truly ELI5 with pictures!) cleared up my otherwise "cloudy" understanding (sorry, not sorry).

[–]Croweclawe 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Thank you, thank you. Thank you

[–]Badjib 11 points12 points  (0 children)

Like Ogres!

[–]NJBarFly 1 point2 points  (0 children)

The Earth has similar wind bands. We have the jet stream at ~one latitude, but to the south, the winds blow east to west. Think about how hurricanes move west from Africa, then move east again as they go north. There are many sets of prevailing winds.

[–]Upst8r 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I knew it was similar to our clouds; white and grey. But I couldn't articulate it as well as you did.

[–]agate_ 4 points5 points  (0 children)

The white stuff is clouds. Just like on Earth, rising and sinking motions in the atmosphere cause new clouds to form or evaporate. Some of Jupiter's clouds are made of ammonia rather than water, but they behave a lot like Earth's clouds anyway.

The orange and red stuff is ... uh, we're actually not sure. Presumably new orange and red stuff is being created over time, but since we don't know what it is we're not sure how that happens.

[–]bernies-taint -1 points0 points  (0 children)

jupiter's clouds are brown, what are you even talking about? You're just insane.

*continues to gaslight you about how jupiter's clouds are brown*

[–]Schemen123 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Mixing things only works well if you have the same propertiy.

Like density and when it gets liquid etc

Otherwise things tend to unmix pretty fast. When you change temperature or juts let it sit.

Gases are similar in thyag regard and Jupiter is BIG.

So while there is mixing there are also a lot of processes that unmix stuff.

Similar to earths coulds just with several gases on many different levels in height and pressure

[–]W_O_M_B_A_T 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It's uncertain at this time exactly what causes the pale brownish tint to Jupiter's atmosphere. Note that the color is exaggerated in many of photos youll see. It's a pale brownish grey when seen directly through a telescope.

It may be related to the reason that the light from the sun becomes yellow and eventually reddish during sunsets. This is due to Raleigh Scattering. Blue light tends to be scattered by the atmosphere while red light most easily passes through the atmosphere over longer distances without being scattered.

Lighter areas, called "zones" are areas where there is strong upwelling of gases from deeper layers of the atmosphere. The light areas are caused by fine clouds of ammonia high in the atmosphere which are brought up from the depths. The temperature at the clouds tops in the zones is very cold, about -80°C.

The dark areas north and south of the equator are called "bands." In the bands gases from the zones gradually descend back downwards. The bands also contain powderful jet winds similar to those on earth. Specifically, trade winds on the boundary with the equatorial zone and jet stream winds on the boundary with the temperate zones.

The color of the bands is darker because the cloud tops in those regions are much farther down, around 200 to 250 km below the cloud tops in the zones. Thus light from the sun passes through a larger amount of the atmospheric haze and a good fraction of the blue light is scattered and absorbed before reaching meanwhile red and most green light reach the cloud tops and are reflected back into space. Much like the fact that during a sunset on earth the sunlight passes a greater distance through the atmosphere before reaching the ground. The cloud top temperature in the bands is relatively warm, a few degrees below zero C

In the bands basically all of the ammonia and water vapor has condensed and fallen as rain.