What happened now? The venerable Hubble Space Telescope has completed its annual tour of the outer solar system, providing curious observers here on Earth with yet another set of stunning images of a group of planets known as gas giants.
Hubble, part The program “Legacy of the Atmosphere of the Outer Planets”, or OPAL, begins with Jupiter. This year’s Sept.4 image shows the planet’s turbulent atmosphere and several new storms. However, the planet’s iconic Great Red Spot remains.
Hubble unveiled a new look at Saturn on September 12. Here we see dramatic color changes in the stripes in the planet’s northern hemisphere, which reflect the seasonal transition to fall. Saturn’s hexagonal storm at the north pole is evident again, but in fact, it is the rings that have historically fascinated sky watchers.
The image of Uranus was taken on October 25 and is a perfect example of what a distant planet looks like as it is experiencing springtime in the northern hemisphere. The increase in polar brightness is believed to be due to increased absorption of solar ultraviolet radiation.
The Hubble photograph of Neptune on September 7 is very similar to what Voyager 2 saw in 1989, a distinct blue with one large dark spot. Blue, NASA Notes (edit)is the result of the absorption of red light by the planet’s methane-rich atmosphere, combined with the same Rayleigh scattering process that makes our planet’s sky blue.