Scientists hope this photo can help solve the many mysteries surrounding the gas giant.
Most people can picture Jupiter. The largest planet in our solar system – with a mass greater than all the other planets in the solar system added together – is known for its colorful bands and gigantic storms. But although the photogenic planet has been immortalized countless times and has been studied by many astronomers for several centuries, there is still a lot we don’t know about this gas giant. For example, it is unclear why both the bands and storms on Jupiter change color and why storms shrink. In short, we still don’t understand the driving forces behind the processes that make Jupiter’s atmosphere the colorful, swirling atmosphere with which we are all so familiar. But the Hubble Space Telescope can change that.
As part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy Program (OPAL for short), the space telescope photographs Jupiter – but also Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – every year (since 2014). And researchers hope that the images that this produces will provide more insight into what changes the atmosphere is undergoing and lead to new theories about what the driving forces behind these changes are.
And also this year Hubble has taken a closer look at Jupiter. The result is a beautiful photo of the gas giant, in which the Great Red Spot – a gigantic storm – cannot be missed.
What is striking to researchers is that the colors in Jupiter’s atmosphere are much more intense this year than in previous years. In particular, the band, which lies roughly at the level of the equator, has acquired a much brighter orange color. It may indicate that deeper clouds are clearing the field, putting more emphasis on the red particles in the higher nebula.
A complete image
Hubble has witnessed a full rotation of Jupiter and thus had the entire atmosphere of Jupiter in front of the lens. It results in the photo below.