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Hubble Space Telescope Takes Tour of the Solar System

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.

Hubble’s precise vision sheds light on these gas giants’ fascinating, dynamic weather patterns and seasons, allowing astronomers to explore the very similar—and very different—variables that contribute to their shifting atmospheres. This year’s Hubble studies of Jupiter focus on the turbulent atmosphere’s ever-changing environment, where many new storms have formed, and the planet’s equator has changed hue again.

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.

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