This April, Jupiter is in the midst of a stage known as opposition, during which it’s as close to Earth as it ever gets – around 670 million kilometers away.
As this event takes place, the Earth sits right in between the Sun and Jupiter as the Sun illuminates the giant gas planet’s surface, making it highly visible to astronomers. Being that it was a prime moment to grab photos of Jupiter, astronomers utilized the Hubble Space Telescope to do just that.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (GSFC)
The result was this absolutely stunning full-bodied photograph that shows the surface of Jupiter in incredible detail. Every last swatch of colorful gassy cloud and even the planet’s infamous Great Red Spot are captured in this frame.
According to the Hubble website, the image was taken with the onboard Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and allows astronomers to observe details in the light spectrums that we can’t see with the naked eye in addition to those that we can; these include both infrared and ultraviolet.
The Great Red Spot is one of the points of interest because it’s essentially a storm that has existed for over a century. Notably, however, it continues to shrink in size over time and we’re not 100% sure why this is the case.
It’s worth noting that despite how stunning of an image the Hubble Space Telescope can grab, we can expect greater things to come from Juno, which is currently orbiting Jupiter, as well as the James Webb Space Telescope, which is slated to head into space some time in 2018.
Astronomers will undoubtedly be comparing data captured by every one of these observation devices side-by-side in the hopes that correlations can be made, and it should be interesting to see if we find anything new or noteworthy that could answer our many unexplained questions.
Source: Hubble Space Telescope