'Cat's Eye' Images Show Cold Hole Over Jupiter's North Pole

by Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Jupiter has a cold vortex in the upper atmosphere over its north pole resembling the vortex over Earth's south pole that enables depletion of Earth's stratospheric ozone, images from two NASA telescopes show.

Composite versions of the images, which resemble cats' eyes, are available online at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA03864 with an explanatory description. Dr. Glenn Orton, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., presented them today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences, in Birmingham, Ala.

A cold air mass, that maintains a roughly hexagonal shape, extends vertically from Jupiter's stratosphere down into the next-lower layer of the atmosphere and rotates at a rate that takes about 300 days to complete a full circle. Scientists can refine models of how Earth's atmosphere works by comparisons with atmospheric dynamics on other planets, such as Jupiter.

Orton and other researchers obtained the images with the JPL-built Wide Field and Planetary Camera on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and with JPL's Mid-Infrared Large-Well Imager on NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility.

The Hubble Space Telescope is managed by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA), for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The Infrared Telescope Facility is operated by the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, under a cooperative agreement with NASA. The California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages JPL for NASA.