NASA has released a beautiful ultraviolet image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the gas giant Jupiter.
This Hubble image shows Jupiter in ultraviolet light. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / M. Wong, University of California, Berkeley / Gladys Kober, NASA & Catholic University of America.
“Released in honor of Jupiter reaching opposition, which occurs when the planet and the Sun are in opposite sides of the sky, this view of the gas giant planet includes the iconic, massive storm called the Great Red Spot,” the Hubble astronomers said.
Measuring in at 16,000 km (10,000 miles) in width, the Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth.
Its reddish color is likely a product of chemicals being broken apart by solar ultraviolet light in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere.
The storm boasts wind speeds as high as 500 kmh (300 mph) and is powerful enough to tear apart smaller storms that get drawn into it.
It has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. In modern times, it has appeared to be shrinking.
“Though the storm appears red to the human eye, in this ultraviolet image from Hubble it appears darker because high altitude haze particles absorb light at these wavelengths,” the researchers said.
“The reddish, wavy polar hazes are absorbing slightly less of this light due to differences in either particle size, composition, or altitude.”
The data used to create this ultraviolet image are part of a Hubble proposal that looked at Jupiter’s storm system.
The scientists plan to map deep water clouds using the Hubble data to define 3D cloud structures in Jupiter’s atmosphere.
“Hubble has a long history of observing the outer planets,” they said.
“From the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts to studying Jupiter’s storms, Hubble’s decades-long career and unique vantage point provide astronomers with valuable data to chart the evolution of this dynamic planet.”
The new image of Jupiter was made from separate exposures taken in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).
“This is a false-color image because the human eye cannot detect ultraviolet light,” the astronomers explained.
“Therefore, colors in the visible light spectrum were assigned to the images, each taken with a different ultraviolet filter.”
“In this case, the assigned colors for each filter are: blue (F225W), green (F275W), and red (F343N).”