NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently took new images of our Solar System’s gas giants and they have now been released for the public to view. The photos are part of yearly observations of the planets called the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program (OPAL). The new pictures of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune provide great details of our Solar System’s giant gas planets that include changing seasons and weather patterns.
In a photo taken on September 4th, Jupiter’s equator is surprisingly more deep orange in color than experts expected it to be. There are also numerous new storms called barges that have formed above of the equator and can be seen as a bright reddish color. Amy Simon from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, described the new images of Jupiter, “Every time we get new data down, the image quality and detail in the cloud features always blow me away,” adding, “It strikes me when I look at Jupiter, in the barges or in the red band right below, you can see cloud structures that are clearly much deeper.” A dark beige storm below the Great Red Spot is called “Red Spot Jr.” and Hubble detected that the winds are getting stronger. There are several white anticyclonic storms to the south of it as well. It takes Jupiter 12 years to orbit the sun.
In the image of Saturn taken on September 12th, extreme changes in color can be witnessed in the bands that are located in the northern hemisphere. And at the north pole, there is a odd looking storm in the shape of a hexagon. Interestingly, it was very difficult to spot last year but it is very easily visible this time around. In the south pole area, there is a blue hue. It is currently the early part of autumn on Saturn. It takes the planet 29 years to orbit the sun.
When you look at the picture of Uranus that was captured on October 25th, your eyes immediately focus on the exceptionally large and bright northern polar hood. The reason for this feature is because it is springtime in the northern hemisphere; therefore, the planet is tilted towards the sun which means that it is getting a significant amount of ultraviolet radiation. It takes Uranus 84 years to orbit the sun.
In the image taken of Neptune on September 7th, you can clearly see a dark spot in the northern hemisphere. Incredibly, the last time it was observed, the spot was traveling towards the equator; however, this time it seems to be moving in the opposite direction. The spot was initially found by Hubble back in 2018 and is wider than our Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, there are bright clouds that can be seen as well as a dark circle that is around the south pole. It takes Neptune 165 years to orbit the sun.
The new pictures of all four Gas Giants can be viewed here.