Hubble takes annual ‘family photos’ of giants in our solar system

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Every year, Hubble takes the time to look inside our solar system instead of staring into space and vast distances throughout time.

In particular, Hubble focuses on the heavyweight planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune beyond the asteroid belt.

This is not because she is so beautiful, but because these observations are made every year as part of the Exoplanet Atmosphere Legacy Program (OPAL).

Although other instruments were able to capture high-resolution images such as the retired Cassini probe on Saturn or Juno currently orbiting Jupiter, the outer ice giants were overlooked when it came to excavations.

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Waiting for the boot

The Hubble Space Telescope, whose mission was recently extended to 2026 and has been in Earth’s low orbit since 1990, showed an amazing detail of the universe around us.

Under the OPAL project, it will show us the long-term evolution and dynamics of the planets in the outer solar system.

Hubble images of exoplanets are the highest possible resolution images, except for those taken by observations that observe the planets at close range.

Through OPAL, we learned that Jupiter’s red dot changes its shape and color, and that the telescope captured images of the planet’s magnificent and powerful Aurora Borealis. Hubble filmed Saturn’s aurora borealis, which emits radio wave activity and asymmetric aurora borealis, representing an unbalanced magnetic field.

Hubble images allowed Neptune to observe a dark storm that behaved very differently as it orbited the cold sky, revealing clouds in Uranus, surrounded by its rings and moons.

OPAL images taken in September and October of this year reveal some fascinating new details about our giant planets.

Jupiter, photographed by Hubble on September 4, appears to be turbulent with tornadoes and storms of opposite clouds orbiting the planet in strong winds. This year, the planet appeared with a strange belt and unusual orange and red bands around the equator, which are usually white or light brown.

Hubble captures

NASA, ESA, A. Simon / Goddard Space Aviation Center, MH Wong / UC Berkeley and OPAL Team)

Several red dots appear above the equator. These are new storms, hurricane cycles are temporary, in contrast to the semi-permanent red dot just below, this red dot is currently brown and is connected by several smaller, pale storms.

The image of Saturn by space telescope occurred on September 12, and images show a planet orbiting the northern hemisphere in early autumn.

And Saturn is tilted just like Earth, so as it orbits the Sun, it undergoes seasonal changes as the hemisphere’s sunlight changes. However, a year on Saturn is 29 Earth years, with each of the seasons being about 7.5 years.

Hubble captures

NASA, ESA, A. Simon / Goddard Space Aviation Center, MH Wong / UC Berkeley and OPAL Team)

As the temperature in both hemispheres changes, so do the clouds, and Saturn’s lines change color, significantly different from last year when the Northern Hemisphere was at the end of summer.

Uranus, photographed on October 25, spends spring in its northern hemisphere. Because it is so far away from the Sun, the orbital period (year) is longer than the period of Saturn, which is 21 Earth years in a season in Uranus.

Hubble captures

NASA, ESA, A. Simon / Goddard Space Aviation Center, MH Wong / UC Berkeley and OPAL Team)

In the Hubble image, the cloud above the north pole of Uranus, known as the polar cap, glows brightly.

Scientists do not know why this happens, but they think that the sun’s ultraviolet rays interact with something in the planet’s atmosphere.

This brightness may be due to a number of factors, such as the change in the opacity of the methane in the atmosphere.

The only thing that has been uniform in Hubble’s observations over the past few years is the clear range at latitude 43 degrees. Scientists believe there may be a jet stream that maintains this precise system.

Finally, the Neptune shooting took place on September 7th. There, the southern hemisphere is believed to enjoy spring, but the seasons there last for more than 40 Earth years. Autumn and spring in Neptune are more than 20 years old and can last up to 20 years.

Hubble captures

NASA, ESA, A. Simon / Goddard Space Aviation Center, MH Wong / UC Berkeley and OPAL Team)

New images reveal that a strange dark Neptune storm is still pending. It is found in the upper left of the planet.

If you look closely, you can also see a dark circle around the South Pole. It has been at least since August 1989 when the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew to deeper areas farther away from the Solar System.

Source: Scientific warning

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