Hubble indicates Jupiter’s opposition with an ultraviolet view of the gas giant

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a new image of Jupiter in ultraviolet light to show the planet is bigger and brighter in the night sky this month.

Jupiter reaches opposition today, November 3, 2023, when the planet is opposite the Sun in the sky.

An opposition is a great time to observe any planet, and this week Jupiter is brilliantly bright to the naked eye.

Learn more about it in our guide on how to observe Jupiter through binoculars.

What Hubble’s Ultraviolet Image of Jupiter Shows

An image of Jupiter captured in ultraviolet light by the Hubble Space Telescope, released on 2 November 2023. Credit: NASA, ESA and M. Wong (University of California – Berkeley); Processing: Gladys Gober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

This Hubble image is presented in false color because the human eye cannot see ultraviolet light.

But that’s why astronomers use the electromagnetic spectrum to observe the universe: it gives them a chance to see features that are normally beyond our view.

The first thing we notice about this Hubble ultraviolet image of Jupiter is how the Great Red Spot appears blue.

The Great Red Spot is a large cyclone in Jupiter’s atmosphere that appears red to the human eye.

But it appears darker in ultraviolet light because, according to NASA, „fog particles at high altitudes absorb light at these wavelengths.”

That’s why the regions at Jupiter’s poles look dark and muddy in this ultraviolet image.

These regions absorb less light due to differences in particle size, composition or height.

Studying Jupiter’s Clouds

A view of Jupiter and its moon Europa captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on 25 August 2020.  Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and MH Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team.
A view of Jupiter and its moon Europa captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on 25 August 2020. Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and MH Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team.

Jupiter is known as a gas giant because the planet is a stormy, turbulent world whose surface is not solid and rocky like Earth or Mars.

One of the main goals of studying Jupiter with missions like NASA’s Juno probe or the Hubble Space Telescope is to learn more about what lurks beneath the clouds.

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This ultraviolet image of Jupiter is part of the Hubble project to analyze Jupiter’s superstorm system.

The astronomers behind the image want to map deep water clouds using Hubble observations to define 3D cloud structures in the gas giant’s atmosphere.

science.nasa.gov

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