The exploration of Jupiter has played a pivotal role in the development of our understanding of the history of our solar system; it has served as a paradigm for the interpretation of exoplanetary systems around other stars, and as a fundamental laboratory for the myriad of physiochemical phenomena evident on the gas giants. Yet, despite great successes in the studies of Jupiter over four centuries of research, our characterisation of Jupiter remains incomplete. Jupiter's atmosphere is distinguished from Saturn's and the Ice Giants by its larger mass, dynamic "weather layer", multiple long-lived vortices and the smaller significance of seasonal variability.We review the scientific goals for Jovian exploration in the coming decade: 1. The bulk composition (e.g. heavy elements, isotopes), cooling history and internal structure (the existence of a core) of Jupiter as signatures of planetary formation and evolutionary models, along with comparisons to the other gas giants. 2. The development of a global three-dimensional understanding of the structure, meteorology and chemistry of the troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere; the mechanisms for transport of energy, momentum and chemical species (tracers) vertically and horizontally, and the role of moist convection. 3. The coupling of the deep motions within the interior to the dynamical manifestations observed in the visible cloud layers. 4. Interactions between the lower neutral atmosphere and the upper atmosphere (thermosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere), along with energy sources and redistribution responsible for aurora, radiolytic chemistry and high thermospheric temperatures. 5. Time-variable phenomena over a range of timescales to determine the underlying mechanisms and significance of the evolution of discrete atmospheric features, quasi-periodic global upheavals, energetic particle precipitation, asteroidal/cometary impacts and wave activity. These themes for Jupiter science will reveal the connections between deep interior, atmospheric weather layer and charged upper atmosphere; and constrain the origin and subsequent evolution of the gas giant.
AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts #41
- Pub Date:
- September 2009