Telescope captures a historical image of Jupiter

Telescope captures a historical image of Jupiter

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Gemini Observatory in Hawaii have teamed up with the Juno spacecraft to probe the mightiest storms on the giant planet Jupiter. They emit thermal radiation from the interior of the planet that can be captured by the Gemini Observatory.

Michael Wong is an astronomer, but he spends his days tracking storm systems and lightning flashes on Jupiter like some Earth-bound meteorologist looking for harbingers of bad weather.

Sferics is short for atmospherics, while whistlers get their name from the whistling tone they made. It's used to see previous the haze and skinny clouds on the prime of Jupiter's environment, to present scientists the chance to probe deeper into the planet's inner workings.

Vast swathes of the planet are consumed by ferocious storms the likes of which we have never seen here on Earth; indeed, Jupiter's famous and permanent "Red Spot" storm is larger than the Earth itself. Jupiter's lightning carries up to three times the energy of the most powerful lightning that strikes on Earth. It has something to do with the Sun's way of warming Jupiter, which is different from the way it warms Earth, with Jupiter being much further away from the Sun.

The combined data reveal three types of clouds coming together in storms.

While much has been gleaned about Jupiter from previous space missions, numerous details - including how much water is in the deep atmosphere, exactly how heat flows from the interior and what causes certain colors and patterns in the clouds - remain a mystery.

While unmanned space missions have already visited Jupiter, researchers still have many questions about how the giant gas was formed and processes that occur on the planet.

The lucky imaging technique uses a scattering approach, capturing lots of images in quick succession. The image is oriented so Jupiter's poles (not visible) run left-to-right of frame.

The detailed, multiwavelength imaging of Jupiter by Geminiand Hubble has, over the past three years, proven crucial to contextualizing the observations by the Juno orbiter, and to understanding Jupiter's wind patterns, atmospheric waves, and cyclones.

"This is our equivalent of a weather satellite", Simon said. Images of the on-going storm are sent back by Juno, and other missions have revealed dark features that evolve within the storm. But the researchers weren't sure if the characteristics were caused by the actual dark material in the clouds or by the holes in the clouds showing the underlying layers.

The image shows the uneven heat distribution beneath the atmospheric layers of the planet. In visible light, these appear dark. Normally, this process is blocked by Jupiter's massive clouds.

In infrared, Jupiter's warm layers deep under the clouds appear to glow through cloud gaps.

To give some sense of the huge scale of cyclones arranged in a hexagonal pattern at Jupiter's south pole, an outline of the continental United States is superimposed over the central cyclone and an outline of Texas is superimposed over the newest cyclone. Perhaps, this will explain some of the mysteries which lie in Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

With lucky imaging, a large number of very short exposure images are obtained and only the sharpest images, when the Earth's atmosphere is briefly stable, are used. It comes to images, the most accurate ever taken of this gaseous planet from the Earth.

Related Articles