Hubble completes a journey through the outer solar system: what he saw there

Unlike rocky terrestrial planets such as Earth and Mars, which are close to their

star, the giants of the outer solar system are cold and consist mainly of gases - hydrogen, helium, ammonia, methane.

Over the past 50 years, scientists have been sent to gasthere are many missions to giants. But their colorful atmospheres are constantly changing. To capture them, the Hubble Space Telescope has been observing distant planets as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program since 2014. He makes images of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus at different wavelengths. Studying the images of the Hubble, scientists each time learn something new about these planets.

Research like this not only complements the datainterplanetary stations. They help to learn more about the planets that spacecraft last visited at the end of the last century (talking about Uranus and Neptune). Hubble's images of the outer planets show both extreme and subtle changes that are taking place in distant worlds. This helps astronomers investigate their causes.

So what did Hubble see this year?


In the images of Jupiter that the telescope tookOn September 4, the ever-changing landscape of the planet's turbulent atmosphere is traced. Several new storms are visible - some are sharply defined, while others appear blurry and hazy. All because of the different properties of the clouds in the vortices. Scientists also noticed a color change near the planet's equator.


The photograph of Saturn was taken by Hubble on 12 September.The image shows rapid and extreme color changes in stripes in the planet's northern hemisphere. This has already happened in 2019 and 2020. Notably, the famous hexagonal storm of Saturn, which Voyager 2 first discovered in 1981, was difficult to recognize in 2020. But in 2021, it is clearly visible again.


Hubble snapped a photograph of Uranus on October 25th.Now in the northern hemisphere of the planet it is spring and it glows especially brightly. This is due to the fact that the flow of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun has increased, the concentration of methane has changed. Also, the properties of the properties of the haze particles and the dynamics of atmospheric flows affect the glow.


In the photographs that Hubble took 7September, researchers again found an unusual dark anticyclone. We will remind, last year he changed the direction of movement. The space telescope also recorded the appearance of bright clouds on Neptune and showed scientists a dark oblong area around the planet's south pole.

The blue color of Neptune and Uranus is the resultabsorption of red light by the planet's methane-rich atmosphere combined with Rayleigh scattering. By the way, it is this that makes the sky of the Earth blue. In 2021, Hubble also recorded several bright clouds on Neptune.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a projectinternational cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland operates the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland conducts Hubble Science Operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington DC. For most, Hubble's work is associated mainly with images of distant stars and galaxies. But it helps scientists to learn more about our solar system.

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