You do not need to consult the man who gives the weather forecast to know which way the wind is blowing in. Jupiter. The sharp view of the space telescope is enough Hubble, which offers us a close-up of the knots of caramel-colored clouds and storms visible on the face of the largest planet in the solar system.
Every year, the Hubble telescope goes on a visual “grand tour” of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. NASA appoints this program Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy, whose purpose is to give a kind of cosmic climate report to planetary scientists and astronomers on Earth that allows them to observe what has changed and what remains the same.
On November 18, NASA released photos from this year’s grand tour. The gallery of portraits of the planets, with its active stripes, ethereal rings, giant storms and raging winds, is an example of the inexhaustible capacity of nature to surprise and captivate us. NASA hopes the results will help scientists understand the dynamics of gas giant planets, both in our own solar system and in other stars, and help them understand a little better how Earth’s atmosphere works.
Above, the planets They are beautiful.
The most prominent feature of Jupiter’s cloud cover is the Great Red Spot, an anticyclone larger than Earth that has been rotating for more than 150 years, at speeds of around 640 kilometers per hour. The new observations show that the winds at the center of the storm continue to lose speed, while those at the outer edge are accelerating.. The stain has gradually changed shape, from oval to circle, in addition to a series of new storms to the south of it.
In the northern hemisphere of SaturnIt was early autumn when the Hubble telescope made its observation this year of the ringed planet. A mysterious six-sided hurricane reappeared around the planet’s north pole. The Voyager space probe first detected this storm, large enough to engulf four planets like ours, in the early 1980s. Last year it could hardly be seen, but this year it has reappeared.
On Uranus, which is further away, it is spring. Uranus follows its orbit around the Sun slightly inclined with respect to the other planets, so the region corresponding to its north pole points directly towards the Sun. Consequently, the northern latitudes of the planet are bathed in solar ultraviolet light and glow like a light bulb. . The researchers suspect that this glow is due to changes in the concentration of methane gas, a major component of Uranus’ atmosphere, and smog, as well as wind patterns around the pole.
Neptune attracts us with the seductive deep blue of the ocean. Unfortunately, that color is not water but methane. On the eighth planet in the solar system, storms are also very common, regions of high pressure that look like blurred dark spots or bruises on their surface. Their discovery was recorded in 1989, when the Voyager 2 probe passed through Neptune, but they were not observed again until a few years later, when the Hubble telescope took over as cosmic sentinel in the 1990s.
These storms typically appear in mid-latitudes and drift toward the planet’s equator, where they weaken and then disintegrate. In 2018, Hubble revealed a huge dark spot in Neptune’s northern hemisphere moving south toward the “Death zone” from the equator.
However, two years later, to the surprise of astronomers and in contrast to computer simulations, the storm had changed direction and was heading back to the north. As if this were not enough, the change in reverse coincided with the appearance of another new storm, a little smaller, called “Dark Spot Jr.”, to the south. The proposed theory was that perhaps a part of the large vortex had detached, draining energy and momentum, as if it were some kind of cosmic pool game.
“It was very exciting to see her behave as expected and then all of a sudden to see her stop and go back”Said Michael Wong, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, at a NASA press conference last year. “It was surprising.”
In the most recent portrait of Neptune, the great dark spot still appears in the north. Instead, the other one has already disappeared, and the entire north pole region is dark. Neptune weather forecasters have no explanation yet.
Enjoy these cosmic postcards while they last. The Hubble Space Telescope has been in space for more than 30 years, much longer than originally planned, and has had more frequent problems lately. This year, the telescope had three prolonged blackouts due to software problems.
However, we may soon have good news about the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for December. The Webb telescope is almost three times the size of Hubble. It is designed to capture infrared, or “heat” radiation, rather than waves in the visible spectrum, which means that it will be able to see through the clouds and fogs of these planets and draw heat maps in the areas below them. It will help reveal how these planets work. Either way, if all goes well (although it hasn’t always been the case), astronomers might as well have two complementary methods for studying that space for a while.
And this was the weather report from the outer planets. There are wind currents, and it is better to bring the most powerful sunblock with us to Uranus.
(c) The New York Times