Astronomers capture stunning new image of Jupiter

Tom Powell
Jupiter: the gas giant is currently closer to Earth than at any other time in the year: AP

A stunning new image of Jupiter has been captured by Hubble Space Telescope astronomers, showing the giant planet's dynamic atmosphere in glorious detail.

At a distance of 415 million miles from Earth, Jupiter is now closer than at any other time during the year.

The planet is at "opposition", lined up with the Earth and the sun.

Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 was used to photograph details in Jupiter's atmosphere as small as 80 miles across.

Shaped by powerful storms and vortices, the planet's roiling atmosphere is divided into several distinct and colourful bands parallel to the equator.

The bands are separated by winds that can reach speeds of up to 400 mph.

Jupiter is best known for the Great Red Spot, an anticyclone storm larger than the Earth that has raged for at least 150 years.

For reasons that are still unknown, the Great Red Spot has been slowly shrinking since the late 1800s.

Also visible in the new photo is the Great Red Spot's smaller and more southerly companion, "Red Spot Jnr".

The images are part of the American space agency Nasa's Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (Opal) programme that provides annual Hubble views of the outer planets to look for changes in their storms, winds and clouds.

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