The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the latest image revealing intriguing and luminous shadows in Saturn's rings, marking the latest observation of enigmatic phenomena known as „spokes” that continue to baffle scientists.
Published by NASA On Thursday, the space agency reported that Saturn was approximately 850 million miles (1.37 billion kilometers) away when Hubble took it on Oct. 22. Orbiting the Earth more than a few hundred miles above the surface for more than three decades, the space observatory has provided valuable insights.
Scientists have long known about the mysterious spokes in Saturn's rings. These strange features resemble spectroscopic drifts with rings and can be seen at different locations depending on Saturn's position in its orbital cycle.
Ongoing observations indicate that the size and characteristics of the spokes in Saturn's rings fluctuate with the planet's seasonal cycle. Compared to Earth, Saturn has an axis with a tilt that induces seasonal changes. However, each season on Saturn lasts about seven years, NASA revealed.
Hubble is poised to closely examine this puzzling phenomenon during its peak activity, as researchers try to uncover its secrets.
„The high-frequency and dark spokes will appear over the next few years, when maximum speech activity is expected as we approach Saturn's equinox,” said Amy Simon, lead scientist for Hubble's Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy, or OPAL, project. In a statement. Simon is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Saturn's autumnal equinox is expected to occur on May 6, 2025. CNN reported.
Saturn's spokes are unstable features that rotate with rings. Their ghostly appearance only lasts for two or three revolutions around Saturn. During active periods, newly formed spokes continue to add shape, NASA said.
In 1981, NASA's Voyager 2 was the first to photograph the ring rods. NASA's Cassini orbiter spotted the spokes during its 13-year mission that ended in 2017.
Hubble continues to observe Saturn annually as the spokes come and go. This cycle was captured by Hubble's Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project, which began monitoring the weather changes on all four gas-giant exoplanets nearly a decade ago.
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