Ultraviolet giant: Hubble gets a unique look at Jupiter

3 Nov 2023

Image: NASA, ESA, and M. Wong (University of California - Berkeley). Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Astronomers plan to use Hubble’s data to map the deep water clouds of Jupiter and learn more about the gas giant’s superstorm system.

The James Webb Space Telescope is taking most media attention this year, but the Hubble Telescope is still providing unique views of the cosmos.

Hubble has taken an image of the gas giant Jupiter in a colour composite of ultraviolet wavelengths. NASA said the image was released in honour of Jupiter reaching “opposition”, which is when the planet and the sun are in opposite sides of the sky.

The image is a false-colour image – as the human eye can’t detect ultraviolet lights – with colours from the visible light spectrum being assigned to the image, with ultraviolet filters.

The eerie image shows the massive storm on Jupiter – commonly known as the Great Red Spot – in a dark purple. NASA said the darkness is because high-altitude particles absorb light at these specific wavelengths.

Meanwhile, the space agency said the reddish polar hazes are absorbing less of this light due to differences in particle size, composition or altitude.

While the image is unique to gaze upon, Hubble’s ultraviolet-observing components provides exciting cosmic phenomena for astronomers, allowing them to learn more about the material between stars and the evolution of galaxies.

The latest image is part of a research proposal to look at Jupiter’s superstorm system. NASA said that researchers plan to use Hubble data to map deep water clouds, to create 3D cloud structures of Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Hubble is one of the largest space telescopes created and is the predecessor of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is continuing the mission to gaze into the cosmos.

Last year, the two titan space telescopes teamed up to capture the result of NASA’s successful Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The space telescopes took simultaneous observations of the collision as the DART spacecraft crashed into its target asteroid Dimorphos.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic