NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope completed its grand tour of the outer solar system this year, returning sharp images of four planets.

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November 19, 2021 20:10 GMT

Hubble snapshots of the exoplanets reveal the intense and subtle changes rapidly occurring in these distant worlds.

The Hubble Space Telescope, located outside Earth’s atmosphere, completed its grand tour of the outer solar system this year, returning sharp images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

according to Report From NASA released Thursday, the Hubble images are part of the annual planetary maps captured for the Legacy of the Exoplanet and Atmosphere program, or OPAL, which provides global views of exoplanets to search for changes in their storms, winds, and clouds, offering new insights into their wild climates. .

Hubble snapshots of the exoplanets reveal the intense and subtle changes rapidly occurring in these distant worlds.

Jupiter

Hubble images of Jupiter this year show a change in the landscape in its atmosphere, with several new storms detected; Likewise, the planet’s equatorial region, traditionally white, remained a deep orange for much longer than in previous blackouts.

Just above the equator, researchers noticed the emergence of many new storms, which were dubbed “boats” in Voyager times. These elongated red cells can be defined as cyclonic vortices, which differ in appearance. While some storms are sharp and clear, others are diffuse and foggy. This difference in appearance is due to the characteristics of swirl clouds.

Saturn

Hubble’s new look at Saturn on September 12 reveals rapid and extreme changes in color in the planet’s northern hemisphere, where it is now early fall. Bands varied throughout Hubble observations in both 2019 and 2020. In particular, Saturn’s iconic hexagonal storm was difficult to discern in 2020, but appeared clearly again in 2021. The images also capture a continuous bluish hue in the south pole, due to low winter temperatures.

Uranus

Hubble’s observations of Uranus on October 25 brought into focus the bright polar cap in the planet’s north. It’s spring in that hemisphere and the increase in ultraviolet rays absorbed by the sun appears to be causing the area to shine. Researchers are studying how the brightness of the polar caps is a result of changes in the concentration of methane in the atmosphere and the properties of fog particles, as well as flow patterns in the atmosphere. Although the layer of the atmosphere becomes brighter, the southern maximum remains constant at the same latitude.

neptuno

In observations made on September 7, researchers discovered that Neptune’s dark spot, which was recently shown to have reversed course as it moved toward the equator, is still visible in this image, along with the dark northern hemisphere. There is also a noticeable elongated dark circle surrounding Neptune’s south pole.

As with Uranus, Neptune’s blue color is the result of red light being absorbed by the methane-rich atmosphere, combined with the same Rayleigh scattering process, which makes Earth’s sky blue. The researchers note that there are few bright clouds on Neptune, their stark blue color with a single large dark spot very reminiscent of what Voyager 2 saw in 1989.

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