Scientists have got “lucky” with new pictures of Jupiter that could help solve the mystery of its swirling storms.
The new images used special techniques to allow the researchers to take some of the best infrared images of Jupiter ever taken from Earth.
They have been combined with other pictures of the planet, taken from space using technology such as the Hubble Space Telescope, to show that the lightning strikes and storms that create them on Jupiter are formed over huge clouds of water ice and liquid.
They also show that the dark spots seen in the planet’s famous Great Red Spot are actually holes within the cloud cover, rather than changes in the colour of the clouds themselves.
The images together represent the result of three years of observations that could be combined using special techniques. Together they are expected to help contribute towards observations from telescopes like Hubble and data from the Juno spacecraft to better understand our still mysterious, huge neighbour.
“The Gemini data were critical because they allowed us to probe deeply into Jupiter’s clouds on a regular schedule,” said Michael Wong of UC Berkeley.
The scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging”, Wong said, which sees scientists take a vast number of very short exposure images, but filters them so that only the sharpest images taken when Earth’s atmosphere is stable are used. That allowed the scientists to create images that “rival the view from space”, Wong said.