Hubble delivers knockout view of Saturn in the summertime

Hubble delivers knockout view of Saturn in the summertime

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured a new, exceptionally crisp picture of the ringed gas giant in early July, and the space agency posted the image of the planet on Thursday.

Two of Saturn's many moons show up as small bright dots against the darkness of space.

"It's wonderful that even over a few years, we're seeing seasonal changes on Saturn", said lead investigator Amy Simon of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Meanwhile, astronomers will continue to monitor the planet every year to track changes in weather patterns and other alterations as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project.

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Convention argues that the rings are around four billion years old - like the planet itself - although a competing theory has proposed instead that the rings formed just a few hundred million years ago. The image reveals some refined improvements from previously observations, such as a reddish haze in the northern hemisphere that may well be because of to warmth from the summer time sunlight.

Sharp images of the gas giant permit planetary scientists to observe the planet's shifting atmosphere. The researchers think this red tint could be due either to the higher levels of heat from the sun this area receives during summer causing a change in the atmospheric circulation, or due to the increased light causing a change in the way the chemicals in the atmosphere appear. Another theory is that the increased sunlight in the summer months is changing the amounts of photochemical haze produced.

"Just how and when the rings formed remains one of our solar system's biggest mysteries", NASA said. Conversely, the south pole has a blue hue which is due to the changes in Saturn's winter hemisphere.

"It's wonderful that even over a few years, we're seeing seasonal changes on Saturn", Dr. Simon said.

In its latest quest to explore the universe, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope gave us a glimpse of summertime on Saturn. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

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