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Jupiter’s atmospheric jet streams extend thousands of kilometres deep


The depth to which Jupiter’s observed east–west jet streams extend has been a long-standing question1,2. Resolving this puzzle has been a primary goal for the Juno spacecraft3,4, which has been in orbit around the gas giant since July 2016. Juno’s gravitational measurements have revealed that Jupiter’s gravitational field is north–south asymmetric5, which is a signature of the planet’s atmospheric and interior flows6. Here we report that the measured odd gravitational harmonics J3, J5, J7 and J9 indicate that the observed jet streams, as they appear at the cloud level, extend down to depths of thousands of kilometres beneath the cloud level, probably to the region of magnetic dissipation at a depth of about 3,000 kilometres7,8. By inverting the measured gravity values into a wind field9, we calculate the most likely vertical profile of the deep atmospheric and interior flow, and the latitudinal dependence of its depth. Furthermore, the even gravity harmonics J8 and J10 resulting from this flow profile also match the measurements, when taking into account the contribution of the interior structure10. These results indicate that the mass of the dynamical atmosphere is about one per cent of Jupiter’s total mass.

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Figure 1: Jupiter’s asymmetric zonal velocity field.
Figure 2: The odd gravity harmonics as function of a single e-folding decay depth parameter H.
Figure 3: Jupiter’s optimized vertical profile of the zonal wind.
Figure 4: Jupiter’s optimized vertical profile of the zonal wind when allowing for its latitudinal variation.

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We thank M. Allison and A. Showman for discussions. The research described here was carried out in part at the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) under the sponsorship of the Israeli Space Agency, the Helen Kimmel Center for Planetary Science at the WIS and the WIS Center for Scientific Excellence (Y.K. and E.G.); at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA (W.M.F., M.P. and S.M.L.); at the Southwest Research Institute under contract with NASA (S.J.B.); at the Université Côte d’Azur under the sponsorship of Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (T.G. and Y.M.); and at La Sapienza University under contract with Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (L.I. and D.D.). All authors acknowledge support from the Juno project.

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Authors and Affiliations



Y.K. and E.G. designed the study. Y.K. wrote the paper. E.G. developed the gravity inversion model. D.J.S. led the working group within the Juno Science Team and provided theoretical support. W.B.H. initiated the Juno gravity experiment and provided theoretical support. W.B.H., T.G., Y.M., R.H., B.M. and S.L.W. provided interior models and tested the implications of the results. L.I., D.D., W.M.F. and M.P. carried out the analysis of the Juno gravity data. H.C., D.J.S. and J.B. supported the interpretation regarding the magnetic field. J.I.L. and A.P.I. provided theoretical support. S.J.B., S.M.L. and J.E.P.C. supervised the planning, execution and definition of the Juno gravity experiment. All authors contributed to the discussion and interpretation of the results within the Juno Interiors Working Group.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Y. Kaspi.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Reviewer Information Nature thanks J. Fortney and N. Nettelmann for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 The vorticity balance.

Solution to equation (6). a, Left-hand-side term with the wind profile from Fig. 3. b, Total of the right-hand side. ch, The six terms on the right-hand side of equation (6), showing that the thermal wind balance (a and d) is the leading-order balance. Note that the different panels have different colour scales.

Extended Data Figure 2 Jupiter’s mass distribution.

The percentage of Jupiter’s mass as a function of depth beneath the 1-bar level. The grey line shows that roughly 1% of the mass is contained above a depth of 3,000 km.

Extended Data Figure 3 Example of wind profiles used for the statistical significance test.

The observed cloud-level wind (black), together with a sample of ten randomly generated wind profiles.

Extended Data Figure 4 Optimized solutions for the odd harmonics using random zonal wind profiles.

af, Optimized solutions (blue) for J3, J5, J7 and J9 for flows with 1,000 different artificial meridional profiles of the zonal wind (as in Extended Data Fig. 3). The Juno measurements are shown in red with their corresponding uncertainty ellipse. The optimized solution corresponding to Jupiter’s observed cloud-level zonal wind profile (Fig. 3) is shown in black with the corresponding uncertainty ellipse. g, The cost function for all different meridional profiles explored, with the red line corresponding to the solution with the Jupiter zonal wind profile. Fewer than 1% of the solutions have lower cost functions (green).

Extended Data Figure 5 Solutions for the odd harmonics using random zonal wind profiles and a fixed vertical profile.

af, Solutions (blue) for J3, J5, J7 and J9 for flows with 1,000 different artificial meridional profiles of the zonal wind (as in Extended Data Fig. 3), and the vertical profile held fixed with H = 2,000 km, ΔH = 1,500 km and α = 1. The Juno measurements are shown in red with their corresponding uncertainty ellipse. The solution with these parameters and using Jupiter’s observed cloud-level zonal wind profile is shown in black with the corresponding uncertainty ellipse. g, The cost function for all different meridional profiles explored, with the red line corresponding to the solution with the Jupiter zonal wind profile. This shows that when no optimization is done (which takes into consideration the relative measurement error of the different harmonics), the solutions are spread equally over all four quadrants in these phase spaces (unlike in Extended Data Fig. 4). Only one solution has a lower cost function (green).

Extended Data Table 1 Flow-induced even gravity harmonics
Extended Data Table 2 The weights matrix W used in the cost function L of equation (16)

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Kaspi, Y., Galanti, E., Hubbard, W. et al. Jupiter’s atmospheric jet streams extend thousands of kilometres deep. Nature 555, 223–226 (2018).

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