New Images of Jupiter’s Stormy Surface

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Jupiter seen in high resolution thermal infrared via the Gemini Observatory's Lucky Imaging technique. (Gemini Observatory / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA M.H. Wong (UC Berkeley) and team)

Check Out These New Images of Jupiter’s Stormy Surface

By Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com

Astronomers have combined the powers of telescopes on Earth and in space to produce a unique set of images of Jupiter that deliver astounding views and new insights about the giant planet’s intense storms, according to a statement from NASA.

Jupiter is more than twice as massive as all the other planets in our solar system combined, however its bulk is anything but solid. The planet’s surface is a roiling mix of gases and liquids, whipped into swirls and stripes by hurricane-force winds and forming massive storms. A single storm, known as the Great Red Spot, is twice as wide as Earth and has been raging for more than 300 years.

Astronomers looking to better understand the gas giant’s intense atmospheric conditions used the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting Earth, the ground-based Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter to image the planet’s surface in unprecedented detail.

Combining these three sources allowed scientists to map Jupiter’s powerful lightning and revealed that dark patches seen within the Great Red Spot are gaps in its cloud cover and not different types of cloud, the researchers report in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

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