Moon and Jupiter
Big thunderstorms roll across the country at this time of year. Despite their great destructive power, though, such storms are tiny compared to storms on Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. Its biggest storm is twice the size of Earth, and has probably been around for centuries.
Even Jupiter's smaller storms are mammoth by Earth standards. In fact, a pair of storms that flared up about this time last year formed systems as wide as North America.
They started as giant thunderstorms erupting from deep below the top of Jupiter's dense atmosphere. The storms climbed to about 20 miles higher than the surrounding clouds. High-speed jet streams blew off the tops of the storms, creating bands of clouds that stretched for thousands of miles.
The thunderstorms began in layers of the atmosphere far below the visible cloudtops, and their clouds were made of crystals of frozen water and ammonia. The storms probably were powered not by the Sun, as storms on Earth are, but by heat from deep inside Jupiter.
Look for Jupiter near the gibbous Moon the next couple of mornings. The giant planet looks like a brilliant cream-colored star, and it rises in the wee hours of the morning. Jupiter will be well to the left of the Moon at first light tomorrow, but much closer to it on Sunday morning.
We'll have more about Jupiter and the Moon tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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