Is Jupiter Burning? See Giant Planet As Never Before In Hubble’s Stunning New Images


Is Jupiter in flames? The latest images from the Hubble Space Telescope may suggest so, but this incredible image of our giant planet is, in fact, based solely on infrared light.

Stunning new images of Jupiter taken by Hubble and the Gemini North telescope in Hawaiʻi show the planet in three different kinds of light—infrared, visible and ultraviolet.

Together these wavelengths of light reveal details the planet’s famous Great Red Spot, a storm first observed in 1831 that’s twice as big as Earth, and where winds reach 268 mph/432 km/h.

The images also reveal superstorms and cyclones that stretch across the planet.

The visible and ultraviolet views were taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 while the infrared image comes from the Near-InfraRed Imager on Gemini North. All the images were captured simultaneously at 15:41 Universal Time on January 11, 2017.

What is multiwavelength astronomy?

It’s the viewing of planets and other astronomical objects at different wavelengths of light, highlighting features that would otherwise be overlooked.

For example, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot storm dominates the visible and ultraviolet images, but is almost invisible in infrared.

There are plenty of other examples here of why multiwavelength astronomy is so useful:

  • the dark region of the Great Red Spot in the infrared image is larger than the corresponding red oval in the visible image. The former shows thick clouds while the visible image shows particles that give the Great Red Spot its color by absorbing blue and ultraviolet light.
  • a bright streak in the northern hemisphere—a cyclonic vortex—appears dark brown in visible light yet barely visible in ultraviolet light.
  • four large “hot spots” below appear bright in the infrared image yet dark in the other images.

The NASA Juno spacecraft’s close flyby in April of Jupiter’s cloud-tops spied this monster storm in its mid-northern hemisphere, as processed by citizen scientists Kevin M Gill:

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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