Hubble observes the giant planets of the solar system
Hubble snapshots of planets in the outer solar system – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – reveal both extreme and subtle changes rapidly occurring in these icy gas giants.
The new image of Jupiter, captured by NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope on September 4, 2021, highlights the giant planet’s tumultuous atmosphere.
The giant planet’s equatorial zone is now a deep orange hue, which Hubble astronomers say is unusual.
While the equator has moved away from its traditional white or beige appearance for a few years now, they were surprised to find a deeper orange in recent Hubble images, as they expected the area cover again.
Just above the equator, they note the appearance of several new storms, nicknamed “barges”.
These elongated red blood cells can be defined as cyclonic vortices, which vary in appearance.
While some of the storms are sharply defined and clear, others are blurry and hazy.
This difference in appearance is caused by physical properties in vortex clouds.
The researchers also note that a feature dubbed Red Spot Jr. (Oval BA), below the Great Red Spot where Hubble just discovered the winds are picking up, is still a darker beige color and is joined by several others. white cyclonic storms. south.
The image of Saturn taken by Hubble on September 12 shows rapid and extreme color changes in the northern hemisphere bands of the planet, where it is now the beginning of autumn.
The bands varied throughout Hubble’s observations in 2019 and 2020.
The Hubble image captures the planet after the Southern Hemisphere winter, evident in the lingering bluish tint of the South Pole.
Hubble’s view of Uranus on October 25 highlights the planet’s bright northern polar cap.
It’s springtime in the northern hemisphere and increased ultraviolet radiation from the Sun seems to be causing the polar region to brighten.
Scientists don’t know why: it could be a change in the opacity of atmospheric methane or some variation in aerosol particles.
Curiously, even as the atmospheric hood becomes brighter, the sharper boundary to the south remains at the same latitude.
This has been consistent over the past few years of Hubble observations of the planet.
Maybe some kind of jetstream is putting up a barrier at this 43 degree latitude.
In observations taken on September 7, 2021, astronomers found that Neptune’s dark spot, which was recently found to have reversed course from its equator-moving path, is still visible in this image, along with a darkened northern hemisphere.
There is also a noticeable dark, elongated circle encompassing Neptune’s south pole.
The blue color of Neptune and Uranus is the result of the absorption of red light by the planets’ methane-rich atmospheres, combined with the same Rayleigh scattering effect that turns Earth’s skies blue.