Check out Hubble's annual tour of the outer solar system

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,747   +140
Staff member
What just happened? The venerable Hubble Space Telescope has completed its annual tour of the outer solar system, providing curious onlookers here on Earth with yet another set of stunning images of a group of planets collectively known as the gas giants.

Hubble’s tour, part the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL, starts with Jupiter. This year’s image, captured on September 4, highlights the planet’s tumultuous atmosphere and reveals several new storms taking shape. The planet’s iconic Great Red Spot, however, persists.

Hubble provided a new look at Saturn on September 12. Here, we can see extreme color changes in the bands at the planet’s northern hemisphere which reflect a seasonal shift into autumn. Saturn’s hexagonal storm at the north pole is again clearly evident, but it’s really the rings that have historically fascinated skygazers.

The shot of Uranus was snapped on October 25 and is an excellent example of what the far-away planet looks like as it experiences springtime in the northern hemisphere. The brightening of the polar region is believed to be caused by the increase in ultraviolet radiation absorbed from the Sun.

Hubble’s September 7 photograph of Neptune looks a lot like what Voyager 2 saw in 1989 – that is, a distinct blue color with a single large dark spot. The blue color, NASA notes, 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 home planet’s sky blue.

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Posts: 5,667   +6,451
The Jovian planets aren't really important as we can't land on them since they don't have solid surfaces.

I am more interested in Pluto.


Posts: 809   +944
It will be a sad day when Hubble reaches it's EoL. Some of the best images man has ever made came from it.


Posts: 609   +983
The Jovian planets aren't really important as we can't land on them since they don't have solid surfaces.

I am more interested in Pluto.

Landing is way less interesting tho. Everyone walked around on a bunch of rocks. But Jupiter is such an unimaginable planet with such ridiculous (assumed) things going on. Like diamond rains. That's not a figure of speech, it's literal liquid diamonds falling from the sky due to the completely out of this world conditions in there. Or metallic hydrogen.

And the sad part is that we'll possibly never be able to actually get there and take a look around and observe. It just doesn't really seem even remotely possible to do so. And not because of the distance, obviously, that's the _least_ of our problems.

Just watch some videos on the topic. These gas giants kick ***, dude.