Hubble monitors stormy weather on Jupiter

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The giant planet Jupiter, in all its glory, is seen again by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in these latest images, taken January 5-6, 2024, from both sides of the planet. Hubble observes Jupiter and other planets in the outer solar system every year as part of the Exoplanet Legacy Program (OPAL). The reason for this is that these large worlds are surrounded by clouds and fog stirred up by violent winds, creating a kaleidoscope of ever-changing weather patterns.

The classic Great Red Spot, large enough to swallow Earth, features prominently in Jupiter's atmosphere. At the bottom right, at a more southerly latitude, is a phenomenon sometimes called the “Junior Red Spot.” he is called. This anticyclone is the result of storms that converged in 1998 and 2000, and first appeared red in 2006 before turning light beige again in subsequent years. This year the color is redder again. The source of the red color is unknown, but it may be a number of chemical compounds: sulfur, phosphorus, or organic materials. Red Spot Junior remains in orbit but moves in opposite directions, passing the Great Red Spot about every two years. Another small red anticyclone appears farther north.

Storm activity is also visible in the other hemisphere. A pair of storms, a deep red cyclone and a reddish anticyclone, appear next to each other to the right of center. It looks so red that at first glance it looks like Jupiter has scraped its knee. These storms rotate in opposite directions, indicating an alternating pattern of high and low pressure systems. Before the hurricane, there was rising rainwater at the edges with descending clouds in the center, clearing the atmospheric fog.

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The storms are expected to bounce in front of each other as they repel each other due to their opposite clockwise and counterclockwise rotation. “Numerous large storms and small white clouds are the hallmark of a lot of activity in Jupiter's atmosphere right now,” said Opal project lead Amy Simon of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

On the left side of the image is the innermost Galilean moon, Io – the most volcanically active body in the solar system, despite its small size (only slightly larger than Earth's moon). Hubble images volcanic deposits on the surface. Hubble's sensitivity to blue and violet wavelengths reveals interesting surface features. In 1979, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft discovered Io's pizza-like appearance and volcanic activity, surprising planetary scientists because it is a small moon. Hubble picked up where Voyager left off, observing Io year after year.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been in operation for more than three decades and continues to make groundbreaking discoveries that shape our fundamental understanding of the universe. Hubble is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, operates the telescope. Goddard also conducts mission operations with Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts science work on the Hubble and Webb telescopes for NASA.

picture: NASA

Winton Frazier

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