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The rotating water tank mimics the rotating surface of Jupiter

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Scientists have recreated the swirling patterns on Jupiter’s surface by spinning a container of water 75 times per minute.

The beautiful patterns of Jupiter’s atmosphere have been created with greater precision than ever before in a laboratory – using a rotating water tank.

Physicist Michael Le Bars of the University of Aix-Marseille in France and his colleagues wanted to find out what the relationship is between the eddies on Jupiter’s surface and what is happening deep inside the planet. Instead of recreating the planet’s atmosphere with hydrogen and helium, they chose to experiment with water.


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Rotating water

The researchers built a cylindrical tank with a diameter of 1 meter, filled it with water, and then rotated it on its axis at a speed of 75 revolutions per minute. This caused the water to recede towards the edges of the tank, creating a curved meniscus on the surface of the water. This is very similar to what you see when you “circulate” water in a glass, Le Bars said in his annual presentation. meeting van de American Physical Society.

The research team was particularly interested in Jupiter’s atmospheric jet streams, the long turbulent streaks that wrap around the planet and offer the research team’s attention. These streaks have been observed for centuries, but scientists have only recently begun to understand their formation.

Small-scale energy injection could be a key factor in creating these so-called Jovian jets. This process is similar to how a local thunderstorm can have a domino effect on the rest of the planet. The researchers simulated this by adding 128 small water pumps to the bottom of the tank. After launch, they pumped small amounts of water up and down, causing patterns similar to the Jovian jet to appear on the surface of the water after about ten minutes.

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While this is not the first experiment to simulate a gas giant in the laboratory, it takes the approach to the next level, says fluid dynamics physicist Peter Read of the University of Oxford. He finds that the exact balance of forces acting on the water mimics the currents of Jupiter’s atmosphere better than ever before. “Reproducing Jovian jets in the laboratory is a major achievement and highlights how well we are beginning to understand them,” he says.

The rotating reservoir of jets does not yet fully correspond to Jupiter’s conditions, and cannot yet explain all the peculiarities of the atmosphere. For example, there are collections of cyclones at the poles of the planet. Scientists are now trying to recreate this by circulating the water in the tank in a more complex way.

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