Hubble images of Jupiter show storms and volcanic moon

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured new images of Jupiter.

The images were captured on 5-6 January 2024 and show Jupiter's two opposite hemispheres.

They were taken in part Extraterrestrial Atmospheric Legacy The program sees Hubble observing Jupiter and other outer solar system planets to record how their storms and atmospheric features change over time.

Two images of Jupiter were captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on 5-6 January 2024. Click to expand. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)

The Great Red Spot is a prominent feature in Hubble's new images of Jupiter captured on 5 January 2024.

The Great Red Spot is a storm larger than Earth that has been raging for centuries.

Visible to the lower right is a contrail, sometimes referred to as 'Red Spot Junior', created by the merging of separate storms on Jupiter in 1998 and 2000.

This feature appeared red in 2006, but developed a lighter color over time.

However, a new Hubble Space Telescope image of Jupiter shows it appears red again.

This image of Jupiter was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on January 5, 2024.  Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)
This image of Jupiter was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on January 5, 2024. Click to expand. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)

It's still not entirely clear why this feature is red, but NASA says it may involve chemical makeup, including sulfur, phosphorus, or organic matter.

Because Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere is always changing, the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Junior are not in the same position relative to each other: the smaller spot passes the larger spot every two years.

A second Hubble image of Jupiter captured on 6 January 2024 shows the opposite side of Jupiter.

This image of Jupiter and its moon Io was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on January 6, 2024.  Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)
This image of Jupiter and its moon Io was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on January 6, 2024. Click to expand. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)

Two red storms appear to the right of center: a red tornado and a red antidote.

These storms rotate in opposite directions, indicating an alternating pattern of high and low pressure systems.

The two storms are thought to pass each other because their clockwise and counterclockwise rotations repel each other.

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„Many large storms and small white clouds are a hallmark of much activity in Jupiter's atmosphere right now,” says Amy Simon, OPAL project leader at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

However, the 6 January image contains another visual treat, the presence of Io, one of Jupiter's Galilean moons.

Io is the most volcanically active body in the Solar System, and its volcanoes were discovered during the Voyager 2 mission by planetary scientist Linda Morabito, who described Io as a „molded pizza”.

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