A crisp new portrait of Jupiter’s storms

This newly released image of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on 25 August, was captured when the planet was 650 million kilometres from Earth.

As well as looking quite beautiful, it is giving researchers an updated report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere.

An exciting detail, NASA says, appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright white stretched-out storm travelling around the planet at 560 kilometres per hour. This single plume erupted on 18 August, and ground-based observers have discovered two more that appeared later at the same latitude.

While it’s common for storms to pop up in this region every six years or so, often with multiple storms at once, the timing of the Hubble observations is perfect for showing the structure in the wake of the disturbance, during the early stages of its evolution.

Hubble shows that the Great Red Spot is ploughing into the clouds ahead of it, forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons. It is currently an exceptionally rich red colour, with its core and outermost band appearing deeper red.

Researchers say the super-storm now measures about 15,770 kilometres across. It is still shrinking as noted in telescopic observations dating back to 1930, but the reason remains a mystery.

This image shows Jupiter is clearing out its higher altitude white clouds, especially along the equator, where an orangish hydrocarbon smog wraps around it.

The icy moon Europa, thought to hold potential ingredients for life, is visible to the left of the gas giant.

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