To gain a comprehensive understanding of a situation, it is often useful to analyze it from different perspectives, a principle well-known to astronomers. For several decades now, they have been taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the Hubble Space Telescope to collect distinct and unique data about the planets in our solar system, including in the ultraviolet domain.
Jupiter adorned in blue in ultraviolet
To mark Jupiter’s opposition – the position of a planet when it is on the opposite side of the Sun as seen from Earth – and thus at its closest approach to our planet, NASA researchers have released a striking image of Jupiter as it appears in this specific domain. False colors have been added since our eyes cannot perceive ultraviolet wavelengths. This is why the famous “Great Red Spot” on Jupiter appears as a “dark blue” in this image, as the high-altitude haze particles in the atmosphere of the largest planet in our solar system absorb light at these wavelengths.
Towards the planet’s poles, where the hazy structures of varying sizes, compositions, and altitudes are present, they absorb ultraviolet light to a lesser extent. This results in reddish hues in the image.
Unveiling the secrets of Jupiter’s atmosphere
This image, released by NASA researchers, is part of their ongoing study of Jupiter’s system of superstorms. The ultimate goal for astronomers is to create a 3D map of the cloud structures in Jupiter’s atmosphere using ultraviolet observations.