Hubble inspects the most distant planet-The New York Times

2021-11-25 09:35:23 By : Ms. Summer Liu

The spacecraft’s visionary eyes once again set their sights on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

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You don't need a weatherman to know the wind direction on Jupiter. All you need is the sharp eyesight of the Hubble Space Telescope, which can observe the candy-colored clouds and storms on the surface of the largest planet in the solar system at close range.

Every year, Hubble is deployed to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune for a visual "grand cruise." NASA calls this the Exoplanet Atmosphere Heritage Program, which allows planetary scientists and astronomers on Earth to see what has changed and what has not changed in content such as cosmic weather reports.

On Thursday, NASA released photos of this year's grand tour. The planetary portrait gallery with all its brisk stripes, ethereal rings, huge storms and strong winds bear witness to nature's infinite ability to bring us surprises and charms. NASA says these results will help scientists understand the dynamics of the giant gas giant planets around our own solar system and other stars, and provide insights into how the Earth’s atmosphere works.

These planets are also very beautiful.

The most prominent feature in the cloud tops of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, an anticyclone larger than the Earth, rotating at a speed of about 400 miles per hour for more than 150 years. New observations indicate that the wind speed at the center of the storm continues to slow down, while the wind speed at the outer edge is accelerating. The point is slowly changing from an oval to a circle, and a series of new storms are forming in the south.

In the northern hemisphere of Saturn, Hubble observed the ringed planet this year in early autumn. A mysterious six-sided hurricane once again appeared around the north pole of the earth. The storm was big enough to swallow four earths and was first discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s. It was hard to see last year, but it has appeared again this year.

Farther away is Uranus’s spring, which revolves around the sun and is tilted relative to other planets. This means that its arctic area is exactly aligned with the sun. As a result, the northern latitudes of this planet are bathed in ultraviolet rays from the sun and glow like a light bulb. Researchers suspect that this brightening is due to changes in the concentration of methane gas (the main component of Uranus' atmosphere) and smog, and changes in wind patterns around the polar regions.

Neptune beckons with a fascinating deep blue ocean. But its color comes from methane, not water. The eighth planet of the solar system is also prone to storms, which are high-pressure areas on its surface that resemble dark, blurry or bruises. They were discovered when Voyager 2 crossed Neptune in 1989, but did not reappear until a few years later when Hubble served as a cosmic sentry in the 1990s.

Usually, these storms appear in mid-latitudes and drift to the Earth's equator, where they weaken and then collapse. In 2018, Hubble discovered a huge black spot in the northern hemisphere of Neptune, which drifted south toward the "dead zone" of the equator.

However, two years later, to the surprise of astronomers and computer simulations, the storm reversed its course and returned north. In addition, this reversal coincided with the emergence of a new, smaller storm called "Dark Spot Jr." To the south-maybe part of the larger vortex that splits up, taking away some of the energy and momentum from the cosmic billiard game.

Michael Wong, a research scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a NASA press release: “It’s exciting to see it behave as it should, and then suddenly it stops and swings back.” Last year. "This is amazing."

In the recent portrait of Neptune, the big black spot is still north. But the junior has disappeared, and the entire Arctic is completely dark. The Neptune weather forecaster still doesn't know why.

Taste these cosmic postcards as much as possible. The Hubble Space Telescope has been in operation there for more than 30 years, far exceeding its planned useful life, and has recently experienced more frequent failures. This year, due to software problems, the telescope experienced three long downtimes.

But with the James Webb Space Telescope scheduled to launch in December, there may be good news. The Webb telescope is almost three times the Hubble telescope. It aims to see infrared or "thermal" radiation, rather than visible light wavelengths, so it can see through the clouds and mists of these planets and map the heat below, so to speak, how these planets work. In any case, if all goes well for a period of time—but things don’t always go well—astronomers can have two complementary ways to understand what is happening outside.

This is a weather report from an outer planet. It's very windy outside, don't forget to apply the strongest sunscreen on Uranus.

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