New Hubble telescope photos reveal storms on Mars and Saturn







The intrepid Hubble Space Telescope recently spied storms on Mars and moons racing around Saturn.

Both planets’ orbits have aligned with Earth this year to bring them relatively close — though they’re still millions of miles away. 

Astronomers call this event “opposition,” because, during these periods, Earthlings see Mars or Saturn rise in the East, while the sun sets opposite us, in the West.

Saturn and six Saturnian moons.

Saturn and six Saturnian moons.

Image: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team, and J. DePasquale (STScI)

Viewing Saturn from some 870 million miles away, the Hubble telescope — which orbits 350 miles above Earth — spotted six of the ringed-planet’s moons, including Enceladus, which spews water vapor into space.  

Also visible atop Saturn is its strange, long-lived hexagonal pattern believed to be formed by a jet stream. The smaller, white area to the hexagon’s south is a slowly dying storm. 

Saturn as seen on June 6, 2018.

Saturn as seen on June 6, 2018.

Image: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team, and J. DePasquale (STScI)

Meanwhile, there’ a planetary-wide dust storm beginning to dispel on Mars. 

The storm has lasted for over a month now, and in some regions of the red planet has blotted out the sun, turning day to night. 

This doesn’t bode well for the Mars Opportunity rover, which requires sunlight for power. Its power has dropped so low, it’s no longer able to communicate with NASA scientists. 

Dusty Mars in mid-July.

Dusty Mars in mid-July.

Image: NASA, ESA, and STScI

Still, NASA engineers hold out hope that Opportunity will wake up, when the sunlight returns. 

Though some geologic features are visible, most of the planet’s surface obscured by dust when compared to a similar Hubble image, taken in 2016.

The 2018 Martian dust storm, on right.

The 2018 Martian dust storm, on right.

Image: NASA, ESA, and STScI

The Hubble launched into space nearly 30 years ago, in 1990. 

Its successor, the hugely-expensive James Webb Space Telescope, has had continual setbacks, and won’t launch until at least 2021

For now, Hubble is still capturing rich images of our solar system and beyond. But, as NASA admits, “eventually, Hubble’s time will end.”

“As the years progress, Hubble’s components will slowly degrade to the point at which the telescope stops working.”

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