The Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency, has completed its yearly grand tour of the Solar System. This is the home of the vast planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, which span up to 30 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. These far-flung worlds are generally formed of cold gaseous soups of hydrogen, helium, ammonia, methane, and other trace gases around a packed, boiling, compact core, unlike the rocky terrestrial planets like Earth and Mars that huddle near to the Sun’s warmth.
The swirling, colorful atmospheres of these four monster planets are continually changing, even though robotic Space craft have brought back images of their trips over the last 50 years. Whenever Hubble’s brilliant cameras examine these worlds, they reveal new surprises, providing new insights into their chaotic weather, driven by still-largely unknown dynamics going place beneath the cloud tops. Thus, Hubble’s images of the outer planets reveal both dramatic and subtle changes occurring in these faraway worlds.
The chaotic atmosphere of the massive planet is on full display in Hubble’s photo taken on September 4th. The planet’s equatorial zone has taken on a unique deep orange color, according to researchers. While the equator has been shifting away from its regular white or beige color for a few years, astronomers were astonished to see a deeper orange in Hubble’s recent imaging when they expected it to cloud up again.