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New area of Jupiter glimpsed for first time

Plumes of ammonia-rich gas deep within Jupiter's thick atmosphere have been glimpsed for the first time by scientists using radio waves.

The gases rise up to form the swirling clouds visible on the planet's surface. At the same time, ammonia-thin air sinks down, forming a global circulatory system similar to that found on Earth.

Researchers measured radio emissions from Jupiter at wavelengths where clouds were transparent.

Using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope observatory in New Mexico, US, the team was able to "see" as deep as 60 miles below Jupiter's cloud tops - a largely unexplored region.

Professor Imke de Pater, from the University of California at Berkeley, said: "We in essence created a three-dimensional picture of ammonia gas in Jupiter's atmosphere, which reveals upward and downward motions within the turbulent atmosphere."

The "radio map" revealed ammonia-poor regions encircling the planet like a belt just north of the equator.

Between these "hotspots" - so called because they appear bright in radio and thermal infrared images - were ammonia-rich upwellings.

The research is reported in the journal Science .

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