New images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope revealed details unseen on planet Jupiter. It is a part of a project to make “The planetary version of annual school picture days for children,” according to a NASA press release.
The high-resolution maps, rendered in 4k Ultra HD format, will help scientists observe how the planet changes with time. Researchers are analyzing a wide range of features, such as winds, clouds, storms and atmospheric chemistry of the largest planet of our Solar System.
NASA also announced that Jupiter isn’t the only planet-forming part of this initiative —called the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy Program. Also Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn will be added to the series and the images will be of public domain.
Thanks to these images, NASA discovered a “rare wave” at the north of the planet’s equator, as a “unique filamentary feature” in the Great Red Post, previously unseen. Researchers produced two global maps of Jupiter using the Hubble’s camera, making it possible to determine the speed of Jupiter’s wind as they show the planet’s rotations.
The Great Red Spot, the characteristic storm of Jupiter, seems to become more circular through the years, as it draws back its speed. The storm is nearly 150 miles smaller, compared to the last measure in 2014, taking into account that the size of the GRS storm is three times the size of Earth. Also, the storm’s core has loosened some color, going towards orange instead of red, says the study published in the Astrophysical Journal.
“Every time we look at Jupiter, we get tantalizing hints that something really exciting is going on,” said Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This time is no exception.”
Up north Jupiter’s equator, scientists found a wave previously spotted by Voyager 2, decades ago. It seems to travel at about 16 degrees north latitude, towards a region that beholds cyclones and anticyclones, as the wave is barely watchable. Sometimes, we can see this type of waves appearing on Earth where cyclones are forming.
“The long-term value of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program is really exciting,” said co-author Michael H. Wong of the University of California, Berkeley. “The collection of maps that we will build up over time will not only help scientists understand the atmospheres of our giant planets, but also the atmospheres of planets being discovered around other stars, and Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, too,” he concluded in the press release.
Juno getting closer to the biggest planet
Added to this, the Juno spacecraft launched four years ago is going to reach Jupiter in 2016, to continue to investigate the planet, unveiling secrets of its functioning and the formation of our Solar System.
It was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5, of 2011. The spacecraft’s objective is to study Jupiter’s composition, its gravity and magnetic fields, and its polar magnetosphere. It will also collect information about the planet’s formation, the amount of water present within its atmosphere, and information about its deep winds and storms.