After looking at Jupiter and searching 'exoplanets gas giants' on google I found that many had stripes on them. I found that pretty peculiar. So why do they have stripes. I think it has something to do with different gas densities but I do not know for sure. If so, then why do some gas giants like Jupiter have stripes with the same colour in different latitudes. Lastly- why do said stripes seem to always be roughly the same colour- like how Jupiter is roughly beige overall.

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Here are some pictures of gas giants- I don't think it would help much but why not?

  • $\begingroup$ It might be useful to include an example of what other exoplanets you're looking at, rather than leaving it open for us to discover. Also, be wary of Jupiter's colors $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Nov 15 '18 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ I did not know that we had directly imaged exoplanets such that we would know what they actually look like. Artistic impressions, on the other hand... $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Nov 15 '18 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ There are no (real) images of any gas giants besides Jupiter and Saturn. You may wish to rephrase your question. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Nov 16 '18 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ The images are predictions. If the question was 'why did the artists picture these planets with similarly coloured stripes?'- the same answer would be supplied therefore making this edit pointless. $\endgroup$ – yolo Nov 17 '18 at 17:13

I’m going to give a rough answer as I’m still not an expert. Nevertheless, the reason that Gas Giants appear to have a particular color composition is due to their own chemical composition of gases in the planet.

Depending on the chemical composition of the gases and other compounds including ice-crystals the gases absorb different energies of photons(dictated by the specific energy level gaps in the electron arrangement of the atoms). Hence they absorb certain “colors”(red has lowest energy while blue/violet has highest energy) of light while reflecting others. Hence the about-same color composition from one planet to another depending on their roughly same composition of gases/other molecules throughout their atmospheres.

For example Jupiter’s Orangish/Red-Brown colors are mainly due to a compound called ammonium hydrogen sulfide. While the methane in Neptune’s upper atmosphere absorbs a lot of red-ish light so it reflects blue light, hence its blue color.

Now to address the final issue of the difference in intensity or slight change of the colors in the planets, that is due to the specific air currents and pressure differences changing the densities and compositions of the atmosphere(like giant wisps of clouds moving about) and hence these variations.

  • $\begingroup$ But why longtitudinal stripes. Why not latitudinal- or continent shaped or even spotted? $\endgroup$ – yolo Nov 15 '18 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ What is the direction of rotation of the planets? You’d notice that air currents would be in the approximate same direction through the Coriolis effect. $\endgroup$ – Tausif Hossain Nov 16 '18 at 5:04
  • $\begingroup$ Neptune rolls 'vertically' though, and even it has faint 'horizontal' stripes $\endgroup$ – yolo Dec 19 '18 at 19:54

A lot of gasses are clear, colorless (or have a few sharp spectral features).. Most solids, however, unless they are very pure, absorb light (because of atomic proximity, spectrum lines are broader, and any impurity adds new lines).

So, like on Earth, we'd expect sunlight to penetrate deeply into atmosphere, but eventually run into something opaque and... stop. That makes heat at the bottom of the atmosphere, SO we expect the warmer lower-atmosphere gas to expand, and rise, and that means the atmosphere isn't just stratified, it's stirred.

The spin of the planet makes a coriolis effect, and that breaks the symmetry of the air movement, and the result is a series of bands of toroidal-flow encircling the planet, around the planetary spin axis. On Earth, the 'Hadley cells' are known from antiquity (because of the 'doldrums' between the cells, ocean navigation is sensitive to this airflow pattern).

So, it is predictable that atmospheric circulation will include belts around the spin axis; as for colors, those could be cloud effects if the circulating gas has any condensation of components, or could be a surface-temperature or distribution-of-dust effect secondary to the air circulation pattern.


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