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Difference Between Belt and Zone in Astronomy

Belt vs Zone in Astronomy

Belts and zones are constituents of the atmosphere. In the giant planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, the matter is not rocky or other solid matter. Most part of these planets are made up of gas or made up of gas compressed into a liquid form, mainly hydrogen and helium. Such planets are also called gas giants.  These planets do not have a well-defined surface as their atmosphere plainly gets denser as we move towards the core. The core, however, might be metallic or rocky. During this transformation there might be liquid or liquid-like states in-between. In total, there are four gas giants in our solar system namely: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. All of these gas giants share many similar phenomena along with the formation of belts and zones. However, the formation of belts and zones is very prominent in the largest planet,  Jupiter.

Due to counterclockwise circulating streams of material, bands are formed in the atmosphere. The darker bands are called belts, and the lighter bands are called zones. These belts and zones circulate on the planet moving parallel to the equator of the planet. These belts and zones cause the swirling effect of the atmosphere.


Belts are the darker bands in the atmosphere of Jupiter. They are at a lower altitude in the atmosphere. They are regions of low pressure and have an internal downdraft. The belts are similar to the low pressure cells in the atmosphere of our Earth, but they are not confined to a particular pocket. They are latitudinal bands encircling the entire planet. This might be due to the rapid rotation of the planet.

The belts are present in the downwards areas of the planet.


Zones are the lighter bands present in the atmosphere of the gas giants. They are present at higher altitudes and are regions of high pressure. An internal updraft exists in the zones. They resemble the high-pressure pockets present in the atmosphere of the Earth that play a crucial role in the phenomenon of climatic change. However, like the belts, the zones also encircle the whole planet.

Zones are present in the upward areas of the atmosphere of the planet.

The belts and zones differ in latitude and intensity during the year, but the general pattern remains the same. These are the result of convection currents in the atmosphere of the planet. The presence of the zones and belts imparts the characteristic colors to the planet due to the differences in the temperature of both bands.


The regions around the atmosphere of the equator rotate faster as compared to the planet as a whole. This speed decreases when moving towards the poles. That is why the band structure is lost towards the poles.


  1. The belts are bands of darker colors while the zones are bands of lighter colors.
  2. The zones are regions of higher temperatures and rising air while belts are regions of lower temperatures and sinking air.
  3. Belts are regions of low pressure while zones are regions of higher pressure.
  4. Belts are present in the downward areas of the planet while zones are present in the upward areas of the planet.

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