headshot of Imke de Prater

Research Expertise and Interest

radio, planetary science, infrared, observations

Research Description

Professor de Pater's research interests include: infrared observations using adaptive optics of, e.g., Io, Titan, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and planetary rings; radio observations of the giant planets' atmospheres and Jupiter's magnetosphere; comets; TAOS, the Taiwan American Occultation Survey of Kuiper Belt objects in the outer Solar System.

In the News

Surprising Details Leap Out in Sharp New James Webb Space Telescope Images of Jupiter

The latest images of Jupiter from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are stunners. Captured on July 27, the infrared images — artificially colored to make specific features stand out — show fine filigree along the edges of the colored bands and around the Great Red Spot and also provide an unprecedented view of the auroras over the north and south poles.

UC Berkeley team probes violent storms, lightning on Jupiter

Studying the turbulent weather of Jupiter, research reveals a special cloud structure near a massive cluster of lightning flashes: a three-way combination of deep clouds made of water, large convective towers, and clear regions with downwelling, drier air outside the convective towers.

Storms on Jupiter are disturbing the planet’s colorful belts

Storm clouds rooted deep in Jupiter’s atmosphere are affecting the planet’s white zones and colorful belts, creating disturbances in their flow and even changing their color. Thanks to coordinated observations of the planet in January 2017 by six ground-based optical and radio telescopes and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, a University of California, Berkeley, astronomer and her colleagues have been able to track the effects of these storms — visible as bright plumes above the planet’s ammonia ice clouds — on the belts in which they appear.

Astronomers see “warm” glow of Uranus’s rings

The rings of Uranus are invisible to all but the largest telescopes — they weren’t even discovered until 1977 — but they’re surprisingly bright in new heat images of the planet taken by two large telescopes in the high deserts of Chile.

Looking for water in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Scientists have for the first time detected water clouds deep inside Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – a centuries-old storm larger than planet Earth – allowing them to put tighter limits on the total amount of water in the planet.

Waves of lava seen in Io’s largest volcanic crater

Taking advantage of a rare orbital alignment between two of Jupiter’s moons, Io and Europa, researchers have obtained an exceptionally detailed map of the largest lava lake on Io, the most volcanically active body in the solar system.

‘Dark vortex’ confirmed on Neptune

New images obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope confirm the presence of a “dark vortex” in the atmosphere of Neptune, a rare type of feature that can persist for years.

Keck observations reveal complex face of Uranus

The planet Uranus, known since Voyager’s 1986 flyby as a bland, featureless blue-green orb, is beginning to show its face. By using a new technique with the telescopes of the Keck Observatory, astronomers have created the most richly detailed, highest-resolution images ever taken of the giant ice planet.

How Kleopatra got its moons

The asteroid Kleopatra was first seen as a bright dot in the asteroid belt in 1880, but only in 2000 was it found to have a highly elongated, dogbone shape. UC Berkeley and French astronomers have now found two moons orbiting the asteroid, newly named Alexhelios and Cleoselene after the twins of Queen Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony.

Jupiter gets its stripe back

Astronomers using three telescopes atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii have recorded the return of a unique belt on Jupiter that periodically fades from dark brown to white. It's most recent fade-out started earlier this year, but November observations show the brown returning. It appears that reflected sunlight off high elevation clouds of ammonia ice have been blocking our view of the darker clouds below.

Amateur astronomers track asteroids as they impact Jupiter

In 1994, amateur astronomers discovered the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that made a dramatic impact on the planet Jupiter. They have found three small asteroid impacts on the planet since then — the most recent in August — providing helpful information for astronomers trying to assess the danger from near-Earth asteroids.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
October 27, 2020
Elizabeth Howell
The surface of Jupiter's moon Io has active volcanos that are spewing hot sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, according to a new study. "As soon as Io gets into sunlight, the temperature increases, and you get all this [sulfur dioxide] ice subliming into gas, and you reform the atmosphere in about 10 minutes' time, faster than what models had predicted," said astronomer and lead author Imke de Pater, at the University of California, Berkeley. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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October 23, 2020
Ashley Strickland
Jupiter's third-largest moon Io is covered by more than 400 active volcanoes, and it's the most volcanically active world in our solar system. New radio images collected by an array of telescopes on Earth have observed the direct effect of this volcanic activity on the moon's thin atmosphere for the first time. "However, it is not known which process drives the dynamics in Io's atmosphere," said study author Imke de Pater, a professor of astronomy, Earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, in a statement. "Is it volcanic activity, or gas that has sublimated (transitioned from solid to gaseous state) from the icy surface when Io is in sunlight?" For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in SciTechDaily, and Science Alert.
August 28, 2019
Jamie Carter
Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and six large land-based telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, a team of scientists led by astronomy professor emerita Imke de Pater was able to peer through the storms, swirling clouds, and bands of color wrapping Jupiter to capture images of the gas giant in visible light and radio waves. "Our ALMA observations are the first to show that high concentrations of ammonia gas are brought up during an energetic eruption," Professor de Pater says. "We were really lucky with these data, because they were taken just a few days after amateur astronomers found a bright plume in the South Equatorial Belt. ... With ALMA, we observed the whole planet and saw that plume, and since ALMA probes below the cloud layers, we could actually see what was going on below the ammonia clouds." Link to video. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in more than 125 sources around the world.
August 26, 2019
Ashley Strickland
Using six telescopes on Earth and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, a team of scientists led by astronomy professor emerita Imke de Pater, peered under the storms, swirling clouds, and bands of color wrapping Jupiter to capture views of the gas giant in visible light and radio waves. "ALMA enabled us to make a three-dimensional map of the distribution of ammonia gas below the clouds. And for the first time, we were able to study the atmosphere below the ammonia cloud layers after an energetic eruption on Jupiter," Professor de Pater says. The researchers found that the storms create plumes above the ammonia ice clouds, and they show up as bright points on the planet's colorful bands, and they can last for months or years. "If these plumes are vigorous and continue to have convective events, they may disturb one of these entire bands over time, though it may take a few months," Professor de Pater adds. "With these observations, we see one plume in progress and the aftereffects of the others." Link to video. For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in more than 100 sources around the world, including Technology.org, Digital Trends, and Business Insider Deutschland.
August 31, 2018
Mark Prigg

A team of scientists including astronomy professor Imke de Pater has discovered water clouds deep inside the Great Red Spot -- a centuries-old storm -- on Jupiter. The finding offers new insight into how Jupiter evolved, and suggests that the planet may have moved to its present location, raising new questions about the solar system. "Based upon all the exoplanets now known, it appears as if planets may form at a different place and then migrate in and/or out to where we see them today," Professor de Pater says. "So what happened in our solar system? Did Jupiter form beyond where Neptune is today?" For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources, including MSN Australia, Innovations Report (Germany), Iran Daily, This is Money (UK), Inquisitr, and WT News.

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