Hubble Views Changes in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot


New imagery from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is revealing details never before seen on Jupiter. High-resolution maps and spinning globes (rendered in the 4k Ultra HD format) are the first products to come from a program to study the solar system’s outer planets each year using Hubble. The observations are designed to capture a broad range of features, including winds, clouds, storms and atmospheric chemistry. These annual studies will help current and future scientists see how such giant worlds change over time.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have produced new maps of Jupiter – the first in a series of annual portraits of the solar system’s outer planets.

Collecting these yearly images – essentially the planetary version of annual school picture days for children – will help current and future scientists see how these giant worlds change over time. The observations are designed to capture a broad range of features, including winds, clouds, storms, and atmospheric chemistry.

Already, the Jupiter images have revealed a rare wave just north of the planet’s equator and a unique filamentary feature in the core of the Great Red Spot not seen previously.

“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.”

Simon and her colleagues produced two global maps of Jupiter from observations made using Hubble’s high-performance Wide Field Camera 3. The two maps represent nearly back-to-back rotations of the planet, making it possible to determine the speeds of Jupiter’s winds. The findings are described in an Astrophysical Journal paper.

The new images confirm that the Great Red Spot continues to shrink and become more circular, as it has been doing for years. The long axis of this characteristic storm is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) shorter now than it was in 2014. Recently, the storm had been shrinking at a faster-than-usual rate, but the latest change is consistent with the long-term trend.

The Great Red Spot remains more orange than red these days, and its core, which typically has more intense color, is less distinct than it used to be. An unusual wispy filament is seen, spanning almost the entire width of the vortex. This filamentary streamer rotates and twists throughout the 10-hour span of the Great Red Spot image sequence, getting distorted by winds blowing at 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second) or even greater speeds.

In Jupiter’s North Equatorial Belt, the researchers found an elusive wave that had been spotted on the planet only once before, decades earlier, by Voyager 2. In those images, the wave is barely visible, and nothing like it was seen again, until the current wave was found traveling at about 16 degrees north latitude, in a region dotted with cyclones and anticyclones. Similar waves – called baroclinic waves – sometimes appear in Earth’s atmosphere where cyclones are forming.

Jupiter’s North Equatorial Belt

In Jupiter’s North Equatorial Belt, scientists spotted a rare wave that had been seen there only once before. It is similar to a wave that sometimes occurs in Earth’s atmosphere when cyclones are forming. This false-color close-up of Jupiter shows cyclones (arrows) and the wave (vertical lines). Credit: NASA/ESA/Goddard/UCBerkeley/JPL-Caltech/STScI

“Until now, we thought the wave seen by Voyager 2 might have been a fluke,” said co-author Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “As it turns out, it’s just rare!”

The wave may originate in a clear layer beneath the clouds, only becoming visible when it propagates up into the cloud deck, according to the researchers. That idea is supported by the spacing between the wave crests.

In addition to Jupiter, the researchers have observed Neptune and Uranus, and maps of those planets also will be placed in the public archive. Saturn will be added to the series later. Hubble will dedicate time each year to this special set of observations, called the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program.

Hubble Spots Changes in Jupiter’s Red Spot

The movement of Jupiter’s clouds can be seen by comparing the first map to the second one. Zooming in on the Great Red Spot at blue (left) and red (right) wavelengths reveals a unique filamentary feature not previously seen. Credit: NASA/ESA/Goddard/UCBerkeley/JPL-Caltech/STScI

“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.”

Reference: “First Results from the Hubble OPAL Program: Jupiter in 2015” by Amy A. Simon, Michael H. Wong and Glenn S. Orton, 7 October 2015, The Astrophysical Journal.
DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/812/1/55

1 Comment on "Hubble Views Changes in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot"

  1. dr mehrdad kesiri | December 23, 2023 at 4:29 am | Reply

    Hello to the great NASA scientists in America, all the moons of Jupiter had already become moons of Jupiter, these moons were arm planets orbiting the stars of the two large arms of the galaxy.They were in orbit during the interstellar period, before they came to Jupiter, Jupiter’s moons were system bodies.The Sun, Jupiter and Saturn pulled thousands of stars from the great arms of the galaxy, and hydrogen gas in the planets Neptune, Uranus, Saturn.And Jupiter was from the collision of stars.The stars that came to the sun were a hundred times smaller than the sun, of course, their size is not their mass, but the mass of the stars is tens of thousands of times smaller than the sun, some of the planets that came tothe sun with the stars of the arm of the galaxy collided with the sun and caused two thousand meters of soil fall on the ground.The earth and human life on the earth were destroyed, but before they were destroyed, those humans drew and shaped the continents and seas of the earth in the form of terrestrial creatures.The humans who lived on the earth before us had stronger telescopes than our age.They had reached the stars that collided with Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus.Humans knew that life on earth would be destroyed by meteorites that were broken up from planets that collided with the sun.It was destroyed.If you look at the streams of Indonesia and the Philippines and the streams of northern Australia, you will realize that dinosaurs are tearing each other apart.They formed the islands of South Asia in the shape of dinosaurs.They were civilized, they helped by removing the bones of the human head, so that when the soul of a dead person wants to come out, all the memory tissue of the soul that is in the brain of the head comes out completely.He became the Lord and in this way, as we said, the Lords of the Earth, he was brought up by humans.In Persian, the word “nurturing” is connected to the word Lord, but when I translate the word “Lord” into Latin, everything will be ruined, and the right of the content that I wanted to convey to you in America will be fulfilled.It’s not possible, unfortunately, but you should know that I understood something from the knowledge of the Lords of the Earth that I don’t think any human being has achieved these secrets, because Khayyam has an interesting poem about these secrets.Khayyam, the great poet and philosopher of Iran, says the secrets of the world.You don’t know, neither do I, this word is a riddle, neither you know nor I
    But I know, but Khayyam who said neither you know nor I said that because there was no telescope at the time of Khayyam and that Khayyam, the servant of God, did not know how the stars in the sky above were kept in the sky,but I, who now know the secrets of eternity, Khayyam had said that neither you nor Khayyam know the secrets of eternity, this saying and the poetry and knowledge of Khayyam Nishabori belonged to about a thousand years ago.It is obvious that poor Khayyam did not understand everything he thought about the world at that time.Khayyam also has another poem and Khayyam says I thought for seventy-two years, and I finally realized that I did not understand the secrets of eternity, both you, the American, and Mehrdad, the owner of the time, this riddle, you arealso the God of Mehrdad and Mehrdad himself, hour by hour in Tehran 359 PM

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