Long-Term Evolution of the Aerosol Debris Cloud Produced by the 2009 Impact on Jupiter


Agustin Sánchez-Lavega PhD, Universidad del País Vasco
Glenn S. Orton PhD, California Institute of Technology
Ricardo Hueso PhD, Universidad del País Vasco
Santiago Perez-Hoyos PhD, Universidad del País Vasco
Leigh N. Fletcher PhD, University of Oxford
Enrique García-Melendo PhD, Fundació Privada Observatori Esteve Duran
Josep María Gómez-Forrellad PhD, Fundació Privada Observatori Esteve Duran
Imke de Pater PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
Michael H. Wong PhD, University of California
Hedi B. Hammel PhD, Space Science Institute
Padmavati Yanamandra-Fisher PhD, Space Science Institute
Amy A. Simon-Miller PhD, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Naiara Barrado-Izagirre PhD, Universidad del País Vasco
Franck Marchis PhD, University of California
Olivier Mousis PhD, Observatoire de Besançon
Jose Luiz Ortiz PhD, Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía
Jorge García-Rojas PhD, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias
Massimo Cecconi PhD, Fundación Galileo Galilei
John T. Clarke PhD, Boston University
Keith S. Noll PhD, Space Science Institute
Santos Pedraz PhD, Calar Alto Obs Centro Astronómico Hispano Alemán
Anthony Wesley PhD, Acquerra Pty. Ltd.
Paul G. Kalas PhD, University of California
Nicholas K. McConnell PhD, University of California
William F. Golisch PhD, University of Hawaii
David M. Griep PhD, University of Hawaii
P Sears PhD, University of Hawaii
Eric L. Volquardsen PhD, University of Hawaii
Vishnu Reddy PhD, University of North Dakota
Michael M. Shara PhD, American Museum of Natural History
Richard P. Binzel PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Will Grundy PhD, University of Hawaii
Joshua P. Emery PhD, University of TennesseeFollow
Andrew S. Rivkin PhD, Johns Hopkins University
Cristina Thomas PhD, Northern Arizona University
David E. Trilling PhD, Northern Arizona University
Karen S. Bjorkman PhD, University of Toledo
Adam J. Burgasser PhD, University of California
Humberto Campins PhD, University of Central FloridaFollow
Takao M. Sato PhD, Tohoku University
Yasumasa Kasaba PhD, Tohoku University
Julie Ziffer PhD, University of Southern MaineFollow
R Mirzoyan, Glendale Community College
Michael P. Fitzgerald PhD, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics
Herve Bouy PhD, Centro de Astrobiologia

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Atmospheres, Dynamics, Jupiter, Atmosphere, Impact processes


We present a study of the long-term evolution of the cloud of aerosols produced in the atmosphere of Jupiter by the impact of an object on 19 July 2009 (Sánchez-Lavega, A. et al. [2010]. Astrophys. J. 715, L155–L159). The work is based on images obtained during 5 months from the impact to 31 December 2009 taken in visible continuum wavelengths and from 20 July 2009 to 28 May 2010 taken in near-infrared deep hydrogen–methane absorption bands at 2.1–2.3 μm. The impact cloud expanded zonally from ∼5000 km (July 19) to 225,000 km (29 October, about 180° in longitude), remaining meridionally localized within a latitude band from 53.5°S to 61.5°S planetographic latitude. During the first two months after its formation the site showed heterogeneous structure with 500–1000 km sized embedded spots. Later the reflectivity of the debris field became more homogeneous due to clump mergers. The cloud was mainly dispersed in longitude by the dominant zonal winds and their meridional shear, during the initial stages, localized motions may have been induced by thermal perturbation caused by the impact’s energy deposition. The tracking of individual spots within the impact cloud shows that the westward jet at 56.5°S latitude increases its eastward velocity with altitude above the tropopause by 5–10 m s−1. The corresponding vertical wind shear is low, about 1 m s−1 per scale height in agreement with previous thermal wind estimations. We found evidence for discrete localized meridional motions with speeds of 1–2 m s−1. Two numerical models are used to simulate the observed cloud dispersion. One is a pure advection of the aerosols by the winds and their shears. The other uses the EPIC code, a nonlinear calculation of the evolution of the potential vorticity field generated by a heat pulse that simulates the impact. Both models reproduce the observed global structure of the cloud and the dominant zonal dispersion of the aerosols, but not the details of the cloud morphology. The reflectivity of the impact cloud decreased exponentially with a characteristic timescale of 15 days; we can explain this behavior with a radiative transfer model of the cloud optical depth coupled to an advection model of the cloud dispersion by the wind shears. The expected sedimentation time in the stratosphere (altitude levels 5–100 mbar) for the small aerosol particles forming the cloud is 45–200 days, thus aerosols were removed vertically over the long term following their zonal dispersion. No evidence of the cloud was detected 10 months after the impact.


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