The recently unveiled image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope offers a captivating view of the planet Jupiter in a composite of ultraviolet wavelengths, released to commemorate Jupiter’s opposition, an event when the planet and the Sun are positioned on opposite sides of the sky. This image of the gas giant showcases the famous “Great Red Spot,” a massive storm.
Interestingly, while the storm appears red to the human eye, it appears darker in this ultraviolet image. This difference arises from high-altitude haze particles that absorb light at these specific wavelengths. The reddish, undulating polar hazes, on the other hand, absorb slightly less of this ultraviolet light due to variations in particle size, composition, or altitude.
The data utilized to construct this ultraviolet image is part of a Hubble proposal focused on investigating Jupiter’s secretive superstorm system. Researchers aim to employ the Hubble data to create 3D cloud structures in Jupiter’s atmosphere, particularly mapping the deep water clouds.
Hubble’s legacy in observing the outer planets is extensive, spanning from studying the impacts of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 to examining Jupiter’s turbulent storms. Over its decades-long career and from its unique vantage point, Hubble has consistently provided astronomers with valuable data to track the evolution of this dynamic planet.
Hubble’s ability to observe in the ultraviolet spectrum allows astronomers to delve into the short, high-energy wavelengths of light beyond human vision. Ultraviolet light reveals a host of fascinating cosmic phenomena, from the radiance of the hottest, youngest stars within local galaxies to insights into the composition, densities, and temperatures of interstellar material, and even the evolution of galaxies.
It’s important to note that this image is presented in false-color because the human eye cannot perceive ultraviolet light. Consequently, visible light spectrum colors have been assigned to the images, each captured with different ultraviolet filters, with blue representing F225W, green representing F275W, and red representing F343N.