The Hubble Space Telescope turned to Jupiter last month, capturing colorful views of the giant planet from Earth and its icy moon Europa over 400 million miles.
The images reveal a new hurricane ripening on Jupiter, giving scientists an enticing picture of the gas giant’s weather. Racing around the planet at a speed of 350 mph (560 km) per hour, the latest storm lies on the top left of Jupiter in Hubble views.
The storm appeared on Hubble Jupiter a week earlier on August 18. Later two more storms appeared at the same latitude.
Jupiter was 406 million miles (653 million kilometers) from Earth when the Hubble Space Telescope observed the planet. According to NASA, Hubble, a joint project between the storm and the European Space Agency, takes photographs of the outer planets of the solar system each year to see changes in solar storms, winds and clouds.
The timing of Hubble’s August 25 observations was perfect for studying Jupiter’s latest storm system. NASA said that storms form in the same latitude band on Jupiter every six years.
“The Hubble’s ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared light image has small, round features trailing behind the plume with complex” red, white and blue “colors, NASA said in a release issued with the images. The features typically spread over Jupiter, leaving behind only cloudy colors and changes in wind speed, but a similar storm on Saturn led to a long-lasting vortex.
NASA said, “The subsequent differences of Jupiter and Saturn storms may be related to the inverse water abundance in their atmosphere, as water vapor can control the enormous amount of stored energy that can be released by these storm explosions.”
Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot is also clearly visible in Hubble’s latest images. NASA said the cyclone spans 9,800 miles (15,800 kilometers), which is large enough to fit inside the Earth, but is rapidly shrinking in telescopic observations, dating back to the 1930s.
Scientists have no idea why the Great Red Spot is shrinking.
A companion storm just south of the Great Red Spot is also displaying some changes in Hubble’s latest comments. A small cyclone named Oval BA or Red Spot Jr. appeared red when it appeared on Jupiter in 2006. But its color later turned white.
According to NASA, the Oval BA feature is now black.
“This may indicate that Red Spot Jr. once again changes to a color similar to its cousin,” NASA said.
“Hubble’s image shows Jupiter cleaning up its high-altitude white clouds, particularly along the planet’s equator, where an orange hydrocarbon smog revolves around it,” NASA said.
Europa, one of Jupiter’s four largest moons, appears on the left side of the planet in Hubble’s observation on 25 August. Europa’s global snowball covers a buried ocean that can disturb material for life.
NASA’s Juno mission is currently orbiting Jupiter, studying the atmosphere and internal structure of the gas.
Two more robotic missions Jupiter are currently under development. NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to demonstrate Europa’s repeated close-up flybys to launch in 2024, while ESA’s JUIS spacecraft read to head to Jupiter for launch in 2022 And eventually entered the solar system’s largest moon around Ganymede.
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