NASA has published extraordinary new photographs of Jupiter, showing changes in one of the planet’s best known features.
Each year, Hubble takes pictures of Jupiter and other outer planets of the solar system to show how they change over time.
The latest images show that Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot, a high pressure storm similar to a hurricane on earth, has shrunk to about 16,000km across, 240km shorter than it was a year ago. The Hubble Space Telescope shows that the spot is now more orange than red and it has a unique filamentary feature in its core which has not been seen before.
“Every time we look at Jupiter, we get tantalising hints that something really exciting is going on,” said Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This time is no exception.”
Hubble has also shown up a wispy filament which rotates and twists throughout the 10-hour span of the Great Red Spot image sequence, getting distorted by winds blowing at 150 metres per second (330mph).
The agency has published on its website an animated gif that showing the movement of the planet’s clouds. The inset images show the Great Red Spot in blue and red wavelengths, revealing the newly discovered filamentary feature swirling inside it.
In Jupiter’s North Equatorial Belt, the researchers found a wave that had been spotted on the planet only once before, decades earlier, by Voyager 2. The current wave was found travelling at about 16 degrees north latitude, in a region dotted with cyclones and anticyclones, NASA reports.
Until now, we thought the wave seen by Voyager 2 might have been a fluke,” said co-author Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “As it turns out, it’s just rare!”
With many thanks to The Australia