Hubble’s new views of Jupiter and Uranus

[Jupiter: left] - The forecast for Jupiter is for stormy weather at low northern latitudes. A prominent string of alternating storms is visible, forming a ‘vortex street’ as some planetary astronomers call it. This is a wave pattern of nested cyclones and anticyclones, locked together like the alternating gears of a machine moving clockwise and counterclockwise. If the storms get close enough to each other and merge together, they could build an even larger storm, potentially rivalling the current size of the Great Red Spot. The staggered pattern of cyclones and anticyclones prevents individual storms from merging. Activity is also seen interior to these storms; in the 1990s Hubble didn’t see any cyclones or anticyclones with built-in thunderstorms, but these storms have sprung up in the last decade. Strong colour differences indicate that Hubble is seeing different cloud heights and depths as well.

The orange moon Io photobombs this view of Jupiter’s multicoloured cloud tops, casting a shadow toward the planet’s western limb. Hubble’s resolution is so sharp that it can see Io’s mottled-orange appearance, the result of its numerous active volcanoes. These volcanoes were first discovered when the Voyager 1 spacecraft flew by in 1979. The moon’s molten interior is overlaid by a thin crust through which the volcanoes eject material. Sulphur takes on various hues at different temperatures, which is why Io’s surface is so colourful. This image was taken on 12 November 2022.

[Uranus: right] - Uranus’s north pole shows a thickened photochemical haze that looks similar to the smog over cities. Several little storms can be seen near the edge of the polar haze boundary. Hubble has been tracking the size and brightness of the north polar cap and it continues to get brighter year after year. Astronomers are disentangling multiple effects — from atmospheric circulation, particle properties, and chemical processes — that control how the atmospheric polar cap changes with the seasons. At the Uranian equinox in 2007, neither pole was particularly bright. As the northern summer solstice approaches in 2028 the cap may grow brighter still, and will be aimed directly toward Earth, allowing good views of the rings and the north pole; the ring system will then appear face-on. This image was taken on 10 November 2022.

Note: The planets do not appear in this image to scale.

[Image description: Jupiter is positioned on the left. It is banded in stripes of brownish orange, light gray, soft yellow, and shades of cream. Uranus is positioned on the right. It appears tipped on its side and is mainly coloured cyan.]


NASA, ESA, STScI, A. Simon (NASA-GSFC), M. H. Wong (UC Berkeley), J. DePasquale (STScI)

About the Image

Release date:23 March 2023, 15:00
Related releases:heic2303
Size:2291 x 938 px

About the Object

Category:Solar System

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