Thursday, July 20, 2006

Jupiter's Giant Red Spot has a Buddy

In January 1610 Galileo used the latest technology, a new invention later named the telescope, to look at Jupiter. In doing so he changed our perception of the Universe by discovering four objects that orbited Jupiter rather than the Sun. Fifty Years later Cassini discovered the Great Red Spot on Jupiter.

Astronomers are still studying Jupiter today, both with ground-based telescopes and with space missions such as the aptly named Galileo mission. Today the Gemini Observatory released an image of Jupiter taken with their state-of-the-art adaptive optics system, Altair. Adaptive optics corrects the distortions introduced by looking through the atmosphere and allows telescopes on the ground to perform almost as well as telescopes in space. This animation provides a brief overview of how an adaptive optics system works. [2.73 MB Quicktime Movie]. The Altair system was built by the National Research Council in Victoria.

The Gemini image shows that the Giant Red Spot now has a companion named Red Spot Junior. Both are massive storm systems that are a product of strong convection currents that violently swirl gases in that region of the planet's atmosphere - very similar to hurricanes on Earth. Read more details.


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