Hubble captures the giant's roaring storms and volcanic moon Io

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured new images of Jupiter from January 5-6, 2024, revealing dynamic weather patterns and notable storms like the Great Red Spot and the Junior Red Spot. The observations are part of the annual Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program, which also highlighted Io's volcanic activity and surface features. Image credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)

Hurricanes, wind shear, and violent storms move Jupiter's atmosphere

The largest and closest giant exoplanets, JupiterColorful clouds present an ever-changing kaleidoscope of shapes and colours. This is a planet where stormy weather is always present: hurricanes, anticyclones, wind shear, and the largest storm in the solar system, the Great Red Spot.

Jupiter has no solid surface and is permanently covered by large clouds of ammonia ice crystals only about 30 miles thick in an atmosphere tens of thousands of miles deep that gives the planet its striped appearance.

The bands are produced by air flowing in different directions at different latitudes at speeds approaching 350 miles per hour. Light-colored areas where the atmosphere rises are called regions. Dark areas where air falls are called belts. When these opposing flows interact, storms and disturbances appear.

Hubble tracks these dynamic changes every year with unprecedented clarity, and there are always new surprises. The numerous large storms and small white clouds seen in the latest Hubble images are evidence of a lot of activity happening in Jupiter's atmosphere right now.

Hubble's 2024 compass image of Jupiter

Jupiter is surrounded by stripes of orange-brown, light grey, soft yellow, and shades of cream. Many large storms and small white clouds pepper the planet. The largest storm, the Great Red Spot, is the most prominent feature in the lower left third of this view. At lower right is a smaller, reddish anticyclone, Red Spot Jr. Another small anticyclone is shown in red near the upper-middle portion of the image. In the upper right center of the image, a pair of storms appear next to each other: a dark red, triangle-shaped tornado and a reddish anticyclone. At the far left edge of the image is Jupiter's small moon Io. The variegated orange color is where volcanic flow deposits appear on Io's surface. Image credit: NASA, ESA, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)

The Hubble Space Telescope tracks Jupiter's stormy weather

The giant planet Jupiter revisited, in all its diverse glory NASA's Hubble Space Telescope In these latest images, taken January 5-6, 2024, both sides of the planet are visible. Hubble observes Jupiter and other outer solar system planets every year under sunlight Outer Planet Atmospheric Heritage Program (OPAL). This is because these large worlds are surrounded by clouds and fog stirred up by violent winds, causing a kaleidoscope of ever-changing weather patterns.

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[left image] – The classic Great Red Spot features prominently in Jupiter's atmosphere, and is large enough to swallow Earth. To the lower right, at a more southerly latitude, is a feature sometimes called the Red Spot Jr. This anticyclone was the result of the merger of storms in 1998 and 2000, and first appeared red in 2006 before returning to a pale beige color in subsequent years. This year it is somewhat redder again. The source of the red color is unknown but may include a combination of chemical compounds: sulfur, phosphorus, or organic materials. Staying in their lanes, but moving in opposite directions, Red Spot Jr. passes by. With the Great Red Spot approximately every two years. Another small red anticyclone appears farther north.

[right image] – Storm activity is also visible in the opposite hemisphere. A pair of storms, a deep red cyclone and a reddish anticyclone, appear next to each other to the right of center. It looks so red that at first glance it looks like Jupiter has skinned its knee. These storms rotate in opposite directions, indicating an alternating pattern of high and low pressure systems. In a hurricane, there is rising waves on the edges with clouds descending in the middle, causing the atmospheric fog to clear.


Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Lead Producer: Paul Morris

The storms are expected to bounce in front of each other because their opposite clockwise and counterclockwise rotation causes them to repel each other. “Numerous large storms and small white clouds are the hallmark of much of the activity occurring in Jupiter's atmosphere right now,” said Opal project leader Amy Simon of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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Toward the left edge of the image is the innermost Galilean moon, Io – the most volcanically active body in the solar system, despite its small size (only slightly larger than Earth's moon). Hubble resolves volcanic flow deposits on the surface. Hubble's sensitivity to blue and violet wavelengths clearly reveals interesting surface features. In 1979 NASA Voyager 1 The spacecraft discovered Io's pizza-like appearance and volcanic activity, surprising planetary scientists because it is a small moon. Hubble picked up where Voyager left off by observing the turbulent Io year after year.


The Hubble Space Telescope images used in this animated science visualization show a complete rotation of the giant planet Jupiter. This is not a real time movie. Instead, Hubble's shots of the colorful planet, taken January 5-6, 2024, are drawn onto a sphere, and the model is then rotated in the animation. The planet's true rotation rate is approximately 10 hours, which can be easily mapped by watching the Great Red Spot come and go with each full rotation. Hubble observes Jupiter and other outer solar system planets every year under the Exoplanet Legacy Program (OPAL). Image credit: NASA, ESA, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC), Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

The Hubble Space Telescope has been in operation for more than three decades and continues to make groundbreaking discoveries that shape our fundamental understanding of the universe. Hubble is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, operates the telescope. Goddard also conducts mission operations with Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble and Webb science operations for NASA. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, DC

Jupiter Opal 2024

This series of 12 panels of Hubble Space Telescope images, taken January 5-6, 2024, show snapshots of the giant planet Jupiter's full orbit. The Great Red Spot can be used to measure the planet's true rotation rate, which is about 10 hours. The innermost Galilean satellite, Io, is visible in several shots, along with its shadow crossing the tops of Jupiter's clouds. Hubble observes Jupiter and other outer solar system planets every year under the Exoplanet Legacy Program (OPAL). Credit: Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)

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