The Hubble Space Telescope returned to Jupiter last month, capturing colorful views of the giant planet and its icy moon, more than 400 million miles from Earth.
Images reveal a new storm blowing over Jupiter, giving scientists a snapshot of the gas giant’s changing climate. A new hurricane orbiting the planet at 350 miles per hour (560 km / h) is located in Hubble Views on the upper left.
The storm appeared on August 18, a week before Hubble looked at Jupiter. Two more storms later appeared at the same latitude.
When the Hubble Space Telescope observed the planet, Jupiter was located 406 million miles (653 million kilometers) from Earth. Hubble, a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency, takes pictures of the outer planets of the Solar System every year to detect changes in their storms, winds, and clouds.
Hubble’s August 25 observation time was perfect for studying Jupiter’s latest storm system. NASA says storms occur in the same latitude band every six years or on Jupiter.
Behind the plume are small, circular features with intricate “red, white, and blue” colors in Hubble’s ultraviolet, visible, and infrared images, NASA said in a statement. Such features extend to Jupiter and change the color of the clouds and wind speed, but a similar storm to Saturn led to a long-lasting vortex.
“Differences after Hurricane Jupiter and Saturn may be related to the amount of water in their atmosphere, because this vapor will control the large amount of energy that the storm can erupt,” NASA said.
The famous Great Red Spot of Jupiter can also be clearly seen in Hubble’s latest images. The hurricane extends across 9,800 miles (15,800 km), which is large enough to fit underground, but has been steadily shrinking in telescope observations since the 1930s, NASA said.
Scientists do not know why the Great Red Spot is shrinking.
A hurricane just south of the Great Red Spot shows some changes in Hubble’s latest observations. A small hurricane called the Oval BA or Red Spot Jr. appeared in red on Jupiter in 2006. But then its color faded to white.
The Oval BA feature now looks dark, NASA.
“This could indicate that Red Spot Jr. is returning to a color similar to Cousin,” NASA said.
“Hubble’s image shows Jupiter covering its high-altitude white clouds, especially at the planet’s equator, with an orange hydrocarbon smoke,” NASA said.
Since August 25, Hubble has observed one of Jupiter’s four largest moons, Europa, to the left. Europe’s global ice shell covers a sunken ocean that contains the ingredients for life.
NASA’s Juno mission orbits Jupiter to study the atmosphere and internal structure of the gas giant.
Jupiter is currently developing two more robotic missions. NASA’s Europe Clipper mission will launch in 2024 to make repeated close – up flybies to Europe, while Issa’s Juice spacecraft is set to go to Jupiter and enter orbit around the Solar System’s largest moon, Ganymede.
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: Stephen Clark1.