See Jupiter’s triple portrait: ultraviolet, infrared, and visible

New detailed images of Jupiter taken in different colors of light reveal many of the atmospheric features of the gas giant.

Three new bright images of Jupiter show the planet in three different types of light – infrared, visible and ultraviolet. Visible and ultraviolet images were acquired by Wide Field Camera 3 with the Hubble Space Telescope, and infrared images were obtained by the Near-InfraRed Imager (NIRI) instrument at the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii. All observations were carried out simultaneously (at 15:41 UTC) January 11, 2017 The images were published on the website of the US National Research Laboratory for Optical Infrared Astronomy (NOIRLab).

As a result, a unique “triple” image of Jupiter was obtained, covering the widest range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

These three portraits highlight a key advantage of multiwavelength astronomy: observing planets and other astronomical objects at different wavelengths of light allows scientists to draw conclusions and observations that would otherwise be unavailable. In the case of Jupiter, the planet has a completely different appearance in the infrared, visible and ultraviolet ranges.

For example, visible light makes it possible to see details on the surface of Jupiter’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, at the same time, it does not make it possible to understand the thickness of the clouds. In infrared light, brighter bands indicate thinner cloud layers that better transmit thermal energy from the planet.

In turn, ultraviolet images help scientists track the height and distribution of particles in Jupiter’s atmosphere. For example, higher layers appear redder due to absorption of ultraviolet light at high altitudes, while bluer areas appear redder due to the reflection of ultraviolet light at lower altitudes.

Observing the Great Red Spot at multiple wavelengths also presents other surprises – the dark area in the infrared image is larger than the corresponding red oval in the visible image. This discrepancy arises from the fact that different structures are revealed at different wavelengths. Infrared observations show areas covered with thick clouds, while visible and ultraviolet observations show the location of chromophores – particles that give the Great Red Spot its characteristic hue by absorbing blue and ultraviolet light.

The Great Red Spot is not the only storm system visible in these images. The area, sometimes referred to as the Junior Red Spot, appears in both the visible and ultraviolet range.

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Alexandr Ivanov earned his Licentiate Engineer in Systems and Computer Engineering from the Free International University of Moldova. Since 2013, Alexandr has been working as a freelance web programmer.
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Alexandr Ivanov

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