Hubble captures new images of cloud bands on Jupiter

Hubble captures new images of cloud bands on Jupiter

Hurricanes, anticyclones and major storms: there's never a dull moment on the largest planet in the solar system.

The Hubble Space Telescope takes several images of gaseous planets each year. On January 5 and 6, it is Jupiter's turn. The atmosphere of this gas giant consists mainly of hydrogen and helium, as well as amounts of methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and water. The upper cloud layer consists of ammonia ice. Below this layer is a layer of ammonium hydrogen sulfide. Even deeper, about eighty kilometers below the cloud cover, there is likely a cloud of liquid water. Variations in the overhead clouds form the distinctive brown and white lines we can see from Earth.

One of the most distinctive storms is the Great Red Spot: large enough to swallow the Earth. Just to the southeast, a smaller version of this storm can be seen, dubbed “Red Spot Jr.” The minor anticyclone is the result of two merging storms in 1998 and 2000 and first turned red in 2006. After that, Red Spot Jr turned beige, but the anticyclone has since returned to red. Red Spot Jr remains in its orbit, but is moving in a different direction than the Great Red Spot. GRV and Junior pass each other every two years. If you look closely at the image, you can also see an anticyclone slightly to the north.

The other side of Jupiter looks a bit quieter, but look closely and you'll notice two storms, a red cyclone and a red-brown anticyclone. They can be seen next to each other – to the right of center. These storms rotate in opposite directions, indicating an alternating pattern of high and low pressure systems. The moon Io floats to the left. This is the most volcanically active celestial body in our solar system. Earlier this year, the Juno spacecraft flew by Io and produced countless beautiful images of volcanoes and plumes.

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Curious about the full series of photos? Check this out On the European Space Agency's Hubble website.

In recent decades, space telescopes and satellites have captured beautiful images of nebulae, galaxies, stellar nurseries, and planets. Every weekend, we take a cool space photo from the archives. Enjoy all the pictures? See them on this page.

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