Hubble just took a surprisingly detailed image of Saturn

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The Hubble Space Telescope has spent the past 30 years orbiting 547 km (340 miles) above Earth. The aging satellite has had a few issues over the past few years, but it’s not yet done taking incredible photos of our cosmic backyard.For example, earlier this month Hubble flexed its solar system chops and took a crystalline image of Saturn 1.35 billion kilometers (839 million miles) away – a planet you can normally only see as a touch of light with the nude. eye.

Right now it’s summer in Saturn’s northern hemisphere, which as we can see means its upper northern half is tilted towards us (and the sun).

But it’s not quite summer as you might imagine. The gas giant gets most of its heat from its interior, rather than the sun, and the average temperature is -178 degrees Celsius (-288 degrees F).

Not only is this picture breathtaking, it helps scientists learn new details about the planet. For example, there is a slight red haze in the northern hemisphere.

NASA believes this could be due to the heat from the sunlight changing atmospheric circulation or changing the photochemical haze on the planet. As you can see at the bottom of the image, the south pole has a slightly blue tint.

“It’s amazing that even over a few years we would see seasonal changes on Saturn,” said Amy Simon, planet specialist, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

(NASA / ESA / A. Simon, Goddard / MH Wong, UC Berkeley / équipe OPAL)

In the image, you can also see two of Saturn’s 82 moons: Mimas, the small dot to the right of the image, and Enceladus, the slightly larger dot at the bottom of the image.

Hubble has made over 1.3 million observations since its launch date 1990, and most of those images are of distant galaxies, nebulae, or stars – but sometimes it takes a photo of a closer planet. from our home.

Saturn, for example, has had photos taken each year as part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) – each photo being slightly different.

These close-ups help scientists keep tabs on our solar system without costly, long-term missions to each of the planets.

That being said, some questions require a spaceship to be answered – like the formation of Saturn’s incredible rings.

“Measurements made by NASA’s Cassini probe on tiny grains raining down in Saturn’s atmosphere suggest that the rings can only last for 300 million years longer, which is one of the arguments for ‘a young age of the ring system,’ said planetary scientist Michael Wong of the University of California. , Berkeley.

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