Jupiter makes closest approach to Earth

Close-Approaching Jupiter Dazzles in New Hubble
Jupiter makes closest approach to Earth

08 April, 2017

If you're stuck indoors - or if clouds obscure the sky - you can enjoy a live stream featuring telescopic views of Jupiter and its moons in the video player below starting at 4:30 p.m. EDT on April 7. The result is a colorful portrait of Jupiter, to be added to a library of observations of the planet as part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program. Since this vortex, which is large enough to engulf three Earths, was first spotted in 1664, scientists have noticed that it has been shrinking.

With its huge and powerful storms and hundreds of smaller vortices, the atmosphere of Jupiter is divided into several distinct, colorful bands, parallel to the equator.

This Hubble Space Telescope photo of Jupiter was taken when it was comparatively close to Earth, at a distance of 415 million miles.

And one won't need any special equipment to enjoy the visual feast, as binoculars would allow the massive planet along with its four largest moons - Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, and Io - to be seen in their natural glory.

This picture revealed no new discoveries, unlike a Hubble image last fall that detected evidence of water vapor plumes from one of Jupiter's moons. "This means that the sun, Earth and Jupiter line up, with Earth sitting between the sun and the gas giant", NASA explained.

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Another spot similar to the Great Red Spot is the much smaller size spot.

Once every 13 months, Jupiter comes in opposition. You can spot the planet easily with the naked eye in the east following sunset, and even a small telescope will reveal its most prominent cloud features and largest moons. The reason for this phenomenon is still unknown. Data gathered by Hubble compliments other NASA missions that are also looking at the Jovian system. Jupiter family comets are thought to form in the Kuiper belt outside the orbit of Neptune.

The astronomical society could begin hosting public viewing events in a few weeks.

Instead, Thursday's picture was simply a reminder that, somewhere out there above the heavens, a decades-old space telescope is still doing what it has done best: capturing spectacularly detailed images of the universe to blow the minds of those on Earth.

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