Hubble telescope gives Jupiter its close-up

Jupiter as seen by Hubble
As Jupiter made its nearest approach to Earth in a year, the Hubble Space Telescope viewed the solar system’s largest planet in all of its up-close glory. This picture was taken on April 3 from a distance of 415 million miles. (STScI / ESA / NASA / GSFC Photo / A. Simon)

Jupiter is as close as it’ll get to Earth this year, and the Hubble Space Telescope took advantage of the opportunity with a stunning picture that shows off the giant planet’s best-known spots.

Astronomer Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center arranged to have Hubble trained on the hemisphere that includes Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and another whirling storm to the south, dubbed “Red Spot Jr.” You can also see white spots speckling the planet’s cloud tops.

The interplay of orbits for Jupiter and Earth brought our two planets just 415 million miles apart, which means Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 could pick up features as small as 80 miles across.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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