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Jupiter in a cup

Recreate the spectacle of Jupiter’s tumultuous atmosphere at home with this simple and brain-stimulating recipe.



Easily recognisable by the signature bands and swirls of gas on its surface, our solar system’s largest planet boasts patterns that look very much like the earthly…latte. The obvious thing to do then, of course, is to very scientifically and reliably model Jupiter’s atmosphere with a cup of coffee. But before we can embark on a barista adventure, we must first gather some information about Jupiter itself.



A gas giant, Jupiter is almost entirely composed of hydrogen and helium, with an occasional sprinkling of other delicious chemicals like ammonia, sulfur, methane, and water vapour. [1] The variation in the colour of its clouds is mostly brought about by their position on the surface–darker streaks are deeper in Jupiter’s atmosphere, while lighter clouds are higher up. [2]


A little way above the ‘surface’ of Jupiter (which isn’t a solid surface as we know it), there is the troposphere. This segment of the atmosphere extends for almost 50 kilometres. And it’s where the magic of Jupiter’s distinctive red and white bands happens. Dark brown bands of clouds form here at a chilling -70˚C, which is much colder than your coffee ought to be. [3] Scientists attribute this tawny colour to sulfur compounds. [1] However, Jeremy strongly recommends against putting sulfur compounds in your latte to colour it and does not claim any responsibility for consequences that may arise from such action. The colder parts of Jupiter’s troposphere contain lighter and whiter clouds, which look suspiciously similar to the milk we will be pouring very shortly. But unlike these clouds, your steamed milk should sit at a temperature of 70˚C rather than -150˚C. [3]



Ingredients:

  • Milk

  • Instant coffee powder

  • Water

  • Sugar (optional)


Equipment:

  • Cups

  • Bottle with lid

  • Spoon

  • Microwave

  • Kettle


Methodology: [4, 5]

  1. Heat one cup of milk by harnessing microwave radiation (40-50s).

  2. Boil some water in a kettle.

  3. In a cup, mix two teaspoons of coffee powder with two teaspoons of sugar (sugar is optional).

  4. Add a little hot water to the powder and sugar so the mixture can dissolve, and mix thoroughly.

  5. Carefully pour in the heated milk until the cup is ¾ full.

  6. Put the rest of the milk in a bottle. Shake the bottle vigorously for 30s.

  7. Time for some latte art! Slowly and carefully pour the milk foam you’ve just made on top of the cup of coffee, and make sure to end with a few swirls to imitate storms in the atmosphere. The good thing about this recipe is that no matter how your latte art ends up looking, it will still resemble Jupiter in some way! As a bonus, your cup is probably circular so you’re already halfway to achieving the perfect 2D representation of Jupiter.


[For an added challenge, attempt to recreate the Great Red Spot (see the centre of the first photo). It’s a storm that’s been raging on Jupiter for centuries and, depending on the image post-processing, can look reddish or sepia. [6]]


Ok, sure, making a caffeine model of Jupiter’s atmosphere is not the most reliable way to study the many intricacies of its storms. Still, may this Jupiter-in-a-cup give the necessary strength to sleep-deprived physics students to conquer their semester exams. Perhaps one day, they will be the ones to unravel more information about Jupiter’s mesmerising atmosphere.


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- Mikaela


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