Nav: Home

Saturn's rings shine in Hubble's latest portrait

September 12, 2019

Saturn is so beautiful that astronomers cannot resist using the Hubble Space Telescope to take yearly snapshots of the ringed world when it is at its closest distance to Earth.

These images, however, are more than just beauty shots. They reveal a planet with a turbulent, dynamic atmosphere. This year's Hubble offering, for example, shows that a large storm visible in the 2018 Hubble image in the north polar region has vanished. Smaller storms pop into view like popcorn kernels popping in a microwave oven before disappearing just as quickly. Even the planet's banded structure reveals subtle changes in color.

But the latest image shows plenty that hasn't changed. The mysterious six-sided pattern, called the "hexagon," still exists on the north pole. Caused by a high-speed jet stream, the hexagon was first discovered in 1981 by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft.

Saturn's signature rings are still as stunning as ever. The image reveals that the ring system is tilted toward Earth, giving viewers a magnificent look at the bright, icy structure. Hubble resolves numerous ringlets and the fainter inner rings.

This image reveals an unprecedented clarity only seen previously in snapshots taken by NASA spacecraft visiting the distant planet. Astronomers will continue their yearly monitoring of the planet to track shifting weather patterns and identify other changes. The second in the yearly series, this image is part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project. OPAL is helping scientists understand the atmospheric dynamics and evolution of our solar system's gas giant planets.
-end-


NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Related Hubble Space Telescope Articles:

CHEOPS space telescope ready for scientific operation
CHEOPS has reached its next milestone: Following extensive tests in Earth's orbit, some of which the mission team was forced to carry out from home due to the coronavirus crisis, the space telescope has been declared ready for science.
Scientists build a 'Hubble Space Telescope' to study multiple genome sequences
Scientists can now simultaneously compare 1.4 million genetic sequences, helping classify how species are related to each other at far larger scales than previously possible.
Kepler Space Telescope's first exoplanet candidate confirmed
An international team of astronomers announced the confirmation of the first exoplanet candidate identified by NASA's Kepler Mission.
Space telescope detects water in a number of asteroids
Using the infrared satellite AKARI, a Japanese research team has detected the existence of water in the form of hydrated minerals in a number of asteroids for the first time.
The Hubble Space Telescope discovers the most distant star ever observed
An international team, including researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of La Laguna (ULL), participated in the discovery of a star at a distance of nine billion lightyears from Earth.
ASU astronomers to build space telescope to explore nearby stars
A new ASU-led mission will launch a small satellite telescope into space to study the environment in other solar systems around the Galaxy's most common type of star.
James Webb Space Telescope's laser-focused sight
About 1 million miles away from the nearest eye surgeon, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will be able to perfect its own vision while in orbit.
Hubble is paving scientific paths for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is helping identify potential celestial targets for the James Webb Space Telescope through a series of preparatory science observations to be completed before Webb is ready to make observations of its own.
Keeping NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in the dark
This bunny-suited technician is performing the important task of ensuring no unwanted infrared light interferes with the optical testing of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope inside of Chamber A at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
New way to weigh a white dwarf: Use Hubble Space Telescope
For the first time, astronomers have used a novel method to determine the mass of a type of star known as a 'white dwarf' -- the shrunken corpse of a dead star that used to be like our sun.
More Hubble Space Telescope News and Hubble Space Telescope Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.