The Hubble Space Telescope took a new super clear shot of Jupiter, which depicts a powerful storm spreading in the northern latitudes of the planet. The ice moon of Europe also hit the picture. The image is available on the official site of the project.
The photo was taken on August 25, 2020, when Jupiter was 653 million kilometers from Earth. The saturated colors are associated with the compounds of hydrogen and helium in the atmosphere of the planet.
Swirling clouds, driven by hurricane winds, create multicolored striped structures. Some of them change from year to year, and some, like the Big Red Blur – the largest atmospheric vortex in the solar system – remain in place for centuries.
The Hubble Space Telescope serves as a kind of meteorological satellite for weather observation on Jupiter, and this time it managed to capture a unique phenomenon – the emergence and spread in the middle northern latitudes of a bright, white, long storm. It appeared on August 18, 2020, and spread at a speed of 560 kilometers per hour.
As noted by scientists from the Hubble Project, storms occur regularly in this region, but this has a distinctive feature – behind the plume of the hurricane stretches small dark clots, twisted counterclockwise. Researchers suggest that this may be the beginning of the formation of a new stable super vortex in the northern hemisphere, similar to the Great Red Blur.
The image shows the Big Red Blur rolling counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere of the planet, scattered in the clouds in front of it, forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons.
As far back as the 1930s, astronomers noted that the spot’s area was slowly shrinking. The reason for this phenomenon is unknown. Hubble data confirm that the superstorm continues to decline, although the pace of this process has slowed. The Big Red Blur is now about 15,800 kilometers across and is large enough to absorb the Earth.
The researchers noted one more peculiarity on the image: the atmospheric object Oval VA, also called “Red Spot Junior” or “Small Red Spot”, located below the Big Red Blur, started to get dark again. Several years ago, Oval VA, which in 2006 was as red as its elder “brother”, began to lose its color and almost discolored. However, now the storm core is getting yellow-orange coloring again.
The image also shows that the high-altitude clouds at the equator, filled with orange hydrocarbon smog, lighten up a little.
Interestingly, this time the “Hubble” lens got the ice moon of Jupiter – Europe. It is believed to have a liquid ocean under its ice crust, which may contain potential ingredients for life, making Europe one of the main targets in search of livable worlds beyond the Earth.
In 2013, it was announced that the Hubble Space Telescope had detected water vapor erupting from the cold surface of Europe in one or more localized plumes near the South Pole. This fact should confirm or deny the mission of Jupiter Icy moons Explorer ESA, whose launch is scheduled for 2022. This automatic interplanetary station, in addition to Europe, will study two other satellites of Jupiter – Ganymede and Callisto.