Hubble takes up-close portrait of Jupiter

The mighty planet will be visible in all its glory to the naked eyes as it rises in the east at the sunset before setting in the west on Saturday morning offering spectacular views of its colourful atmosphere and the legendary Great Red Spot.

New photos snapped by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured Jupiter's breathtaking bands and enormous storms before the giant planet comes into so-called opposition this Friday.

Also visible in the new photo is the Great Red Spot's smaller and more southerly companion, "Red Spot Jnr". One question: Why is Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot - which is so large it could engulf the entire Earth - mysteriously shrinking? .

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"However, as with the last images of Jupiter taken by Hubble and telescopes on the ground, this new image confirms that the huge storm that has raged on Jupiter's surface for at least 150 years continues to shrink", the agencies said.

The observations of Jupiter form part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) programme, which allows Hubble to dedicate time each year to observing the outer planets.

It is called an anticyclonic storm because it rotates in the opposite direction that a traditional storm should - counter-clockwise, when a southern hemisphere storm should rotate clockwise. Much smaller storms appear as white or brown-colored ovals. This program provides yearly Hubble global views of the outer planets to look for changes in their storms, winds, and clouds. This is a mystery for all astronomers.

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This image captures a portion of Jupiter's cloud bands near the terminator between day and night, giving a high-contrast look at the cloud tops.

Currently, the NASA spacecraft Juno is orbiting Jupiter, and making the most careful study of the planet to date. This means that the next time Jupiter will be again as close to Eath as it is now, it will be in May 2018.

Dean Smith, a physics instructor at UND and faculty adviser for the Northern Sky Astronomical Society, the university's astronomy club, said the planets will remain relatively close for some time.

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That schedule gives us close-up images of Jupiter every 53 days or so, so the next pass will be on May 19, 2017. Earth and the Sun are on opposite sides of the sky, that's the closest we ever get.


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