Hubble Captured The Beginning Of The Saturnian Summer
Photos of Saturn taken by the Hubble telescope from a distance of 1.35 billion km indicate that summer has recently begun on this planet, according to the Hubble website.
"It's amazing how dramatically and seriously the face of the planet has changed in just a few years. Its Northern hemisphere, where it is now summer, is covered with a light haze of red, and the southern hemisphere, on the contrary, has become blue," said Amy Simon, an astronomer from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
The axis of rotation of Saturn is slightly inclined to the plane of its orbit so that this planet has its own summer, winter, autumn, and spring, which last for several earth years. Before the Cassini probe reached Saturn, astronomers had little opportunity to study how Saturn's appearance changed with each season of the year.
In 2004, such an opportunity appeared. Over the next 13 years, astronomers have learned a lot about these changes. For example, with the onset of spring, hurricanes on the surface of Saturn lose their blue color and turn beige, which is due to how the increasing power of sunlight affects the behavior of certain molecules of unsaturated hydrocarbons in its atmosphere.
Similarly, the onset of summer and autumn changes how giant atmospheric vortices arise and move in the polar and temperate latitudes of the giant. Many of these effects, as Cassini's observations showed, were due to the fact that Saturn's rings greatly affect how much sunlight reaches the upper edge of its clouds.
Cassini's work ended in 2017, but NASA experts continue to observe the changing seasons on Saturn as part of the OPAL project, using the power of the Hubble orbiting telescope.
Recently, he received very clear photos of Saturn, as well as several of its moons. They show that it is now summer in the Northern hemisphere of the giant planet. In favor of this, in particular, the fact that its surface is covered with a red-beige haze, which is associated with the interaction of hydrocarbons and light, as well as with the melting of ice particles in the upper atmosphere of the giant planet.
Scientists have recorded similar shifts in the nature of the movement of storms and other atmospheric processes. Astronomers hope that studying images of these phenomena and scientific data collected by Hubble will help them learn many of the secrets of the inner structure of Saturn and bring them closer to understanding when and how its rings originated.