The Hubble Space Telescope recently captured an incredibly clear image of Saturn. This photo was taken on June 20, when the planet was at its closest point to the Earth, about 1.36 billion kilometers.
Of the eight planets in our system, Saturn is undoubtedly the most beautiful, sublimated by its rings. Witness this recent shot Hubble, and his wide-field camera 3 (WFC3). This photograph is part of a program called Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL), which aims to compile images of the gaseous giant planets of our system in order to study their atmospheric dynamics over time. This is the second annual image of Saturn as part of this project. The planets Jupiter and Uranus have already been “flashed” five times, and Neptune four times.
Note that while the planet Saturn seems incredibly placid, the weather conditions inside are frightening. This gigantic ball of frozen gas is indeed the theater of many storms, inside which are formed lightning a million times more powerful than on Earth. Recently, the Cassini probe gave us a glimpse of these Dantesque conditions, revealing the famous hexagonal storm located at the North Pole of the planet. Here, the winds blow at a speed of about 530 km / h.
NASA has also released an accelerated video, compiling images of Saturn captured by Hubble. The agency also highlights the presence of some moons (not all, Saturn has more than 60). These photos were taken between June 19th and 20th.
Recall that we recently learned a lot about Saturn thanks to Cassini’s passage. The researchers were able to determine the total mass of these rings: about 15 billion kilos. This information then allowed us to estimate their age: between 10 and 100 million years. In other words, it is possible that those if they were formed at the time when the dinosaurs were still evolving on Earth.
The data returned by Cassini also revealed that the innermost ring (ring C) pours matter into the atmosphere of Saturn (more than two tons per second). The outermost rings then transfer material to the inner structures to compensate. One fine day then, all the material contained in these rings will end up in the atmosphere of Saturn. At this rate, the researchers estimated that the planet could be released from its rings in about 100 million years.
Finally, the Cassini probe also allowed us to estimate the duration of a day on Saturn. A datum that, until then, had escaped astronomers. Answer: It lasts 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds on the ground.