Coloring Jupiter's clouds: Radiolysis of ammonium hydrosulfide (NH4SH)

Mark J. Loeffler, Reggie L. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Here we present our recent studies on the color and spectral reflectance changes induced by ∼0.9 MeV proton irradiation of ammonium hydrosulfide, NH4SH, a compound predicted to be an important tropospheric cloud component of Jupiter and other giant planets. Ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy was used to observe and identify reaction products in the ice sample and digital photography was used to document the corresponding color changes at 10–160 K. Our experiments clearly show that the resulting color of the sample depends not only on the irradiation dose but also the irradiation temperature. Furthermore, unlike in our most recent studies of irradiation of NH4SH at 120 K, which showed that higher irradiation doses caused the sample to appear green, the lower temperature studies now show that the sample becomes red after irradiation. However, comparison of these lower temperature spectra over the entire spectral range observed by HST shows that even though the color and spectrum resemble the color and spectrum of the GRS, there is still enough difference to suggest that another component may be needed to adequately fit spectra of the GRS and other red regions of Jupiter's clouds. Regardless, the presence of NH4SH in the atmosphere of Jupiter and other gas giants, combined with this compound's clear alteration via radiolysis, suggests that its contribution to the ultraviolet-visible spectra of any of these object's clouds is significant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-425
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Atmospheres, chemistry
  • Experimental techniques
  • Geophysics
  • Ices, ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy
  • Jupiter, atmosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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