Hubble Space Telescope Takes Detailed Portrait of Jupiter


Hubble, which NASA describes as an "interplanetary weatherman", conducts yearly monitoring of Jupiter and scientists hope that the space telescope will reveal information on the shifting behavior of the planet's clouds, said a NASA press release. These hues and their changes can provide important details on Jupiter's evolving atmosphere.

Just as families record the changing faces of their kids as they grow older, the Hubble Space Telescope each year captures the changing faces of the solar system's four colorful gas-giant planets.

Regardless, the Jupiter storm is still large enough to swallow our planet whole. Astronomers are still unsure of why cloud bands change colors or why storms become smaller, however, a new Hubble Space Telescope portrait gives a close-up look at Jupiter's unpredictable atmosphere and might provide some insights on the planet's dynamic activity. According to NASA, the Great Red Spot is bigger than Earth.

The new image was taken in visible light as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL.

Among the unanswered questions is Jupiter's great red spot, perhaps the best known "landmark" on the planet's highly volatile surface atmosphere. The reason for this is still unknown so Hubble will continue to observe Jupiter in the hope that scientists will be able to solve this stormy riddle. The different bands often flow in opposition to each other thanks to powerful jet streams, turning the borders of each band into swirling masses of clouds.

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The two white oval features are anticyclones, essentially smaller versions of the Great Red Spot.

"A worm-shaped feature located below the Great Red Spot is a cyclone, a vortex around a low-pressure area with winds spinning in the opposite direction from the Red Spot", NASA stated.

The Hubble image also highlights Jupiter's distinct parallel cloud bands. Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 observed Jupiter when the planet was 400 million miles (640 million kilometers) from Earth, when Jupiter was near "opposition", or nearly directly opposite the sun in the sky.

The different concentrations are separated by fast wind speeds that can reach up to 650 kph.