Incredible new image of Jupiter taken by NASA’s Hubble telescope reveals a high-definition view of the solar system’s largest planet
- Image taken as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL
- Shows giant planet’s trademark Great Red Spot and an intense colour palette
- Another interesting detail is the colour of the wide band at the planet’s equator
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured an incredible new image of Jupiter.
The high-definition picture reveals the giant planet’s trademark Great Red Spot and an intense colour palette in its surrounding clouds.
Taken in visible light on June 27 as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL, it was only publicly released this week.
Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 captured the shot when Jupiter was 400 million miles from Earth and almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky.
Experts say the visible details provide new and important clues about the planet’s atmosphere.
High-definition: Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 captured the shot when Jupiter was 400 million miles from Earth and almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky
WHAT CAUSES JUPITER’S CHARACTERISTIC BANDS?
Experts have studied recent evidence gathered from Nasa’s Juno spacecraft to reveal the reason why gases form bands on Jupiter.
Clouds of ammonia at Jupiter’s outer atmosphere are carried along by jet streams to form Jupiter’s regimented coloured bands.
Jupiter’s jet streams reach as deep as 1,800 miles (3,000 km) below Jupiter’s clouds, which are shades of white, red, orange, brown and yellow.
The gas in the interior of Jupiter is magnetised, which researchers believe explains why the jet streams go as deep as they do but don’t go any deeper.
There are also no continents and mountains below Jupiter’s atmosphere to obstruct the path of the jet stream.
This makes the jet streams on Jupiter simpler than those on Earth and cause less turbulence in it’s upper atmosphere.
Among the most striking features in the image are the rich colors of the clouds moving toward the Great Red Spot, a storm rolling counterclockwise between two bands of clouds.
All of Jupiter’s colorful cloud bands in this image are confined to the north and south by jet streams that remain constant, even when the bands change color.
The bands are all separated by winds that can reach speeds of up to 400 miles (644 kilometers) per hour.
The bands are created by differences in the thickness and height of the ammonia ice clouds. The colorful bands, which flow in opposite directions at various latitudes, result from different atmospheric pressures. Lighter bands rise higher and have thicker clouds than the darker bands.
Detail: This Hubble Space Telescope image highlights the distinct bands of roiling clouds that are characteristic of Jupiter’s atmosphere. The view represents a stretched-out map of the entire planet. Researchers combined several Hubble exposures to create this flat map, which excludes the polar regions
On the opposite side of the planet, the band of deep red color northeast of the Great Red Spot and the bright white band to the southeast of it become much fainter. The swirling filaments seen around the outer edge of the red super storm are high-altitude clouds that are being pulled in and around it.
The Great Red Spot is a towering structure shaped like a wedding cake, whose upper haze layer extends more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) higher than clouds in other areas.
The gigantic structure, with a diameter slightly larger than Earth’s, is a high-pressure wind system called an anticyclone that has been slowly downsizing since the 1800s. The reason for this change in size is still unknown.
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. Researchers have observed cyclones with a wide variety of different appearances across the planet. The two white oval-shaped features are anticyclones, like small versions of the Great Red Spot.
Another interesting detail is the color of the wide band at the equator. The bright orange color may be a sign that deeper clouds are starting to clear out, emphasizing red particles in the overlying haze.
WHAT IS THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE?
The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
It is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889.
He is arguably most famous for discovering that the universe is expanding and the rate at which is does so – now coined the Hubble constant.
The Hubble telescope is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889 (pictured)
Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish more than 15,000 scientific papers.
It orbits Earth at a speed of about 17,000mph (27,300kph) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles in altitude.
Hubble has the pointing accuracy of .007 arc seconds, which is like being able to shine a laser beam focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s head on a dime roughly 200 miles (320km) away.
The Hubble telescope is named after Edwin Hubble who was responsible for coming up with the Hubble constant and is one of the greatest astronomers of all-time
Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across and in total is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long – the length of a large school bus.
Hubble’s launch and deployment in April 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope.
Thanks to five servicing missions and more than 25 years of operation, our view of the universe and our place within it has never been the same.