Hubble Space Telescope Takes Detailed Portrait of Jupiter

Hubble Showcases New Portrait of Jupiter

The Earth-orbiting Hubble turns its eyes to all the outer solar system planets at least once a year to check on their weather. On June 27th the spacecraft did just that and the resulting image (and animation) might be one of its finest ever. The image seen here was snapped on June 27, 2019.

"The bands are created by differences in the thickness and height of the ammonia ice clouds", STScI officials said in a statement. They flow in opposite directions at various latitudes because of different atmospheric pressures.

In the image, we can see the iconic Gret Red Spot that is a giant storm that has been raging on Jupiter for many decades. It was near the point called "opposition" where Jupiter is nearly directly opposite the Sun in the sky. These hues and their changes can provide important details on Jupiter's evolving atmosphere. NASA notes that the worm-shaped feature to the south of the Great Red Spot is a cyclone that spins in the opposite direction of the Great Red Spot. While the spot - an ancient, gargantuan storm - can alone still swallow up to three Earth-sized planets, since the 1800s scientists and stargazers have watched the spot shrink in size; nobody is quite sure why. Two cloud bands, which are located above and below the Great Red Spot, are moving in opposite directions. Much smaller storms appear on Jupiter as white or brown ovals that can last as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries. This initiative allows Hubble to dedicate time each year to observing the outer planets and provides scientists with access to a collection of maps, which helps them to understand not only the atmospheres of the giant planets in the Solar System, but also the atmosphere of our own planet and of the planets in other planetary systems.

Vivid colors and swirling clouds are highlighted in the new Jupiter image, as well as a closeup look at its atmosphere. The different concentrations are kept separate by fast winds which can reach speeds of up to 650 kilometres per hour. The lighter bands rise the highest, while thicker clouds represent the darker ribbons in the band. Image credit: NASA / ESA / A. Simon, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / M.H. Wong, University of California, Berkeley.

According to NASA, the Great Red Spot is "anchored in roiling atmosphere" that receives heat from deep inside of the planet.

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