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Hubble eyes stormy Jupiter.

Earlier this month, NASA released this true-color image of Jupiter, taken by the Hubble telescope. The photo depicts the clouds in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere, including a tent-like structure -- never before imaged -- above the Great Red Spot (white arrow).

Reta F. Beebe of New Mexico State University in Lax Cruces suspects the tent evolved from a small storm originally located at the same latitude as the red spot -- a hurricane system so big that its surface area exceeds that of Earth.

A collision with the massive spot pushed the small storm several degrees north of the hurricane, she speculates. "It's like crashing a Volkswagen into a semi," Beebe says.

Relocated at the edge of Jupiter's south equatorial belt, the westward-moving storm encountered winds blowing toward the east, which may have deformed the weather system into a tent shape, she reasons. Beebe suggests the tent feature may have previously appeared too faint to image.

The Hubble photograph -- part of a sequence of 45 images taken in May -- also depicts a pale oval (black arrow), one of several similarly shaped storms that formed about 1938.

The new images lack the resolution of photographs taken by the two Voyager spacecraft one Jovian year ago (about 12 Earth years), but they do provide enough detail for researchers to compare both image sets and track annual weather patterns on the planet. Beebe and her colleagues plan periodic Hubble surveys to monitor seasonal weather changes on Jupiter
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Title Annotation:Hubble Space Telescope
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 26, 1991
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