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The Hubble telescope captures changes in Jupiter and Uranus

The Hubble telescope captures changes in Jupiter and Uranus

(CNN) The weather is slowly changing on Jupiter and Uranus, according to our galaxy’s interplanetary meteorologist.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured images of Earth’s neighboring exoplanets from 2014 to 2022, documenting changes in the planets’ weather and seasons over time.

with Jupiter It is about 484 million miles (779 million km) from our Sun Uranus At about 1.8 billion miles (3 billion kilometers) apart, each takes longer to orbit the sun, which means the seasons slower. But the gas giants still face severe weather. This is especially true of Uranus, with its oddly tilted axis that causes one hemisphere to be completely devoid of sunlight for 42 years at a time.

In the November 2022 Hubble image of Uranus, the planet’s north pole contains a large whitish circle, caused by a thick smog-like photochemical haze from cities, along with several storms near the circle’s edge, according to NASA.

In one of the first images of the Hubble Space Telescope’s Exoplanet Atmosphere Legacy Program, or OPAL, the northern polar cap of Uranus appears much brighter compared to its appearance in the November 2014 image. A NASA research team is tracking the size and brightness of the northern polar cap and reports that the haze appears brighter every general.

“My opinion of planets as a child was always that they were very static. You had a textbook picture; you didn’t see them change. And of course, that’s not true. These are giant atmospheres, hmm,” said Dr. Amy Simon, chief scientist for planetary atmospheric research at the University of Michigan. NASA, who participated in these Hubble observations: Replaying change all the time.

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“For us to understand the processes going on, we just need more temporal coverage. A year on Jupiter takes 12 years on Earth, and it only gets worse from there. We’re trying to build this database so we can understand the processes going on in these atmospheres.”

Observing weather changes

Project Opal’s goal is to obtain observations of exoplanets to help scientists better understand them Atmospheric dynamics and evolution. Since following Uranus’ polar cap and how it changes with the seasons, scientists have found that neither pole was bright during the planet’s 2007 economic equinox, when it was fully illuminated by the Sun.

In images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (left) in 2014 and 2022, the increasing size and brightness of Uranus’ north polar cap is evident. Bright haze covers the lid in the later image.

In 2028, when the northern summer solstice approaches, NASA scientists expect the cap to become brighter, and Hubble will give a clear view because Uranus’ north pole will point directly toward Earth.

If you’re thinking of going back Original Voyager images of Uranus, it was just a pale blue ball that contained nothing. “You didn’t see clouds, you didn’t see fog, you didn’t see anything… So there was a polar cap then, but we couldn’t see it,” Simon said. What we’ve been watching over time (using Hubble), is this buildup of this haze high up in the atmosphere, and the exact purpose or the exact mechanism behind it, we don’t know, that’s one of the things we’re studying. “

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Great Red Spot storm system

In this January image of Jupiter, the planet’s Great Red Spot is in the spotlight. The spot, which is actually a giant, centuries-old storm, juts out next to one of Jupiter’s moons, named Ganymede. It is the largest moon in the solar system and slightly larger than the planet Mercury.

This Hubble image shows that the Great Red Spot is large enough to swallow the Earth, according to NASA.

While the eddy is powerful, scientists have observed the spot shrinking over the years and report that it was at its smallest ever size, according to records including data going back 150 years.

Jupiter’s storm activity increased

At Hubble’s launch in 1990, no hurricanes or thunderstorms were observed on Jupiter. But in the past decade, storms have increased, with a series of storms appearing in both images during November 2022 and January 2023. If the storms get close enough to each other, they can merge to form an even larger superstorm. of the size of the Great Red Spot, according to NASA.

“We’re quite used to seeing a lot of big changes on Jupiter. We see clouds changing color, we see storms coming, we’ve been watching the Great Red Spot — I’d like to see a big storm break out on Uranus, because that’s one of the few places we don’t tend to see That’s a lot,” Simon said. “If we see a big storm developing on Uranus (using Hubble), I would be very excited.”

Using Hubble, scientists are able to monitor the ever-changing atmospheres of these exoplanets. According to a NASA statement, “Hubble’s sharpness and sensitivity keep an unblinking eye on a kaleidoscope of complex activity over time.”

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