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Hubble snaps Mars and Saturn’s portraits

Hubble snaps Mars and Saturn’s portraits

Hubble took advantage of close passes to capture incredible snaps of Saturn and Mars.

Credit: Saturn: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team, and J. DePasquale (STScI); Mars: NASA, ESA, and STScI

As Saturn and Mars ventured close to Earth, the Hubble Space Telescope captured these exquisite photographs.

Hubble captured Saturn when the ringed world was approximately 2.18 billion kilometres from Earth, and Mars when it was just 59.4 million kilometres from Earth – a mere stones throw in astronomical terms.

The close passes from the planets occur when the planets are in opposition – when the Sun, Earth and the planet form a direct line. Planets in opposition provide an excellent opportunity for astronomers to see features on the planet’s surface in fine detail – not only are the planets at their closest to Earth, but planets in opposition appear fully lit by the Sun when viewed from Earth.

Mars’s close distance gives it its brightest appearance in the night sky since the 2003 opposition.

Summertime on Saturn

This composite image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope on 6 June 2018, shows the ringed planet Saturn with six of its 62 known moons. The image is a composite because the moons move during the Saturn exposures, and individual frames must be realigned to make a colour portrait. Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team, and J. DePasquale (STScI)

Saturn has seasonal changes caused by the planet’s 27-degree tilt. The increase in sunlight in Saturn’s northern hemisphere has heated the atmosphere and caused a large storm that is now disintegrating in Saturn’s polar region. Small, mid-latitude puffs of clouds are also visible.

The planet’s spectacular ring system is also on full display, nearing it’s maximum tilt toward Earth. This gives a perfect view of the rings and the gaps between them, and provides the best opportunity to view them stretching out nearly 8 times the radius of the planet.

The images captured by Hubble also show six of Saturn’s 62 currently known moons: Dione, Enceladus, Tethys, Janus, Epimetheus, and Mimas.

Springtime for Mars

In mid-July the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed Mars, only 13 days before the planet made its closest approach to Earth in 2018. While previous images showed detailed surface features of the planet, this new image is dominated by a gigantic sandstorm enshrouding the entire planet.  Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

Mars also has seasons, due in part to its 25-degree axial tilt, which is similar to Earth’s 23.5-degree tilt. However, Mars’ more elliptical orbit has a greater influence on its seasonal changes than Earth’s. Its closest and most distant points from the Sun vary by 19 percent (as opposed to just 3 percent for our own planet).

While we’re used to photographs which show detailed surface features of the planet, Hubble’s new image clearly shows the gigantic sandstorm still covering the entire planet. The  white polar caps, Terra Meridiani, the Schiaparelli Crater, and Hellas Basin are still visible, but even they are slightly blurred by the dust in the atmosphere.

Each Martian year, moderately large dust storms cover continent-sized areas and last for weeks at a time. Global dust storms like the one current happening on Mars sometimes last for weeks or months, and tend to happen during the spring and summer in the southern hemisphere, when Mars is closest to the Sun and heating is at a maximum to generate winds.

                                          Courtesy: https://australiascience.tv