The Hubble Space Telescope captures stunning new photos of the solar system’s outer planets each year to help scientists keep track of any changes.
This year, the Hubble team compiled Jupiter’s images into a 4K video (below). The images have helped researchers calculate the wind speeds on the gas giant and study its gaseous bands — but they have also revealed a never-before-seen feature at the very center of the Great Red Spot.
Jupiter’s Red Spot is similar to a hurricane but is about three times the size of Earth. The storm has raged nonstop for at least 300 years yet is shrinking day by day. The new images, for example, show the giant storm shrunk 150 miles since 2014.
But scientists found something strange and new in the photos: A “wispy filament” that spans almost the entire length of the spot, according to a NASA press release.
During the rotation video, it gets buffeted around by Jupiter’s 330-mph winds. You can make out the filament in the red and blue boxes in the animation below:
Scientists also spotted a very rare wave of swirling cyclones near the planet’s equator. The vertical lines in the image below point to the wave, while the white arrows point to cyclones forming at the top of the wave.
The wave is similar to baroclinic waves on Earth, which form in our home planet’s atmosphere and help produce cyclonic storms.
We’ve seen this kind of wave on Jupiter only once before: when NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past the planet decades ago.
“Until now, we thought the wave seen by Voyager 2 might have been a fluke,” Glenn Orton, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in the release. “As it turns out, it’s just rare!”
Here’s the complete rotation video of Jupiter:
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