Rotational Light Curves of Jupiter from Ultraviolet to Mid-infrared and Implications for Brown Dwarfs and Exoplanets

Huazhi Ge, Xi Zhang, Leigh N. Fletcher, Glenn S. Orton, James Sinclair, Josh Fernandes, Tom Momary, Yasumasa Kasaba, Takao M. Sato, Takuya Fujiyoshi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Rotational modulations are observed on brown dwarfs and directly imaged exoplanets, but the underlying mechanism is not well understood. Here we analyze Jupiter's rotational light curves at 12 wavelengths from the ultraviolet (UV) to the mid-infrared (mid-IR). The peak-to-peak amplitudes of Jupiter's light curves range from subpercent to 4% at most wavelengths, but the amplitude exceeds 20% at 5 μm, a wavelength sensing Jupiter's deep troposphere. Jupiter's rotational modulations are primarily caused by discrete patterns in the cloudless belts instead of the cloudy zones. The light-curve amplitude is controlled by the sizes and brightness contrasts of the Great Red Spot (GRS), expansions of the North Equatorial Belt (NEB), patchy clouds in the North Temperate Belt (NTB), and a train of hot spots in the NEB. In reflection, the contrast is controlled by upper tropospheric and stratospheric hazes, clouds, and chromophores in the clouds. In thermal emission, the small rotational variability is caused by the spatial distribution of temperature and opacities of gas and aerosols; the large variation is caused by the NH 3 cloud holes and thin-thick clouds. The methane-band light curves exhibit opposite-shape behavior compared with the UV and visible wavelengths, caused by a wavelength-dependent brightness change of the GRS. Light-curve evolution is induced by periodic events in the belts and longitudinal drifting of the GRS and patchy clouds in the NTB. This study suggests several interesting mechanisms related to distributions of temperature, gas, hazes, and clouds for understanding the observed rotational modulations on brown dwarfs and exoplanets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number89
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb


  • brown dwarfs
  • methods: data analysis
  • planets and satellites: individual (Jupiter)
  • techniques:photometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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