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Neptune, seen from the Keck Observatory in the infrared (wavelength 1.17-1.3 microns), 11 August 2004.  (Program ID N19N2.)

This blog’s Hubble week now moves into gifs from Hubble photos.  Here is Saturn and its southern aurora.  Photographed 8 January 2004 in the UV, proposal ID 10083.

borealis: Jovian aurora, photographed by Hubble Space Telescope, spring 2005.
Looking at the north pole of Jupiter. I believe that the bright dots at bottom left are the origins of magnetic flux tubes to Europa and Ganymede, and the bright streak at right is the link to Io.
From Visit 3 of Proposal 10140.
Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScl. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.

Uranus, photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope through various filters.  Of note is what appears to be a cloud centre-right; Uranus looked almost completely featureless in Voyager’s pictures, but at least at some wavelengths, there is something going on in the atmosphere. The rings are also clearly visible in the last few frames (892nm methane filter).  Assuming I made no interpretational blunders with HORIZONS data, Miranda is the small moon at the bottom of the frame, and Ariel is near the top.
Photographed 24 August 2006, Proposal ID 10805.


tick: Neptune and Triton, photographed 5 times by Hubble Space Telescope, August 2002.
Note that Triton has a retrograde orbit, opposite to the direction of the planet’s spin. More gifs. More Neptune. More Triton.
Contrast decreased for reasons of art.
[From Proposal 9393].
Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScl. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.

Seen through a methane band.

Last week, this Tumblr went on a Hubble binge.  This week: Keck!  (Yes, in a desperate bid to keep the daily updates going, I’ve started using ground-based observations.)  We start with Jupiter, seen from the Keck Observatory at Mauna Kea in Hawaii on 4 June 2010, at wavelengths of 1.95-2.3 microns (i.e., infrared).  The gif covers about 30 minutes of real time.  (Program ID C304N2L.)
What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.

First Transiting Planets in a Star Cluster Discovered

All stars begin their lives in groups. Most stars, including our Sun, are born in small, benign groups that quickly fall apart. Others form in huge, dense swarms that survive for billions of years as stellar clusters. Within such rich and dense clusters, stars jostle for room with thousands of neighbors while strong radiation and harsh stellar winds scour interstellar space, stripping planet-forming materials from nearby stars.
It would thus seem an unlikely place to find alien worlds. Yet 3,000 light-years from Earth, in the star cluster NGC 6811, astronomers have found two planets smaller than Neptune orbiting Sun-like stars. The discovery, published in the journal Nature, shows that planets can develop even in crowded clusters jam-packed with stars.
Read More.

With Saturn’s rings in the foreground, Mimas is held in the centre of the frame, as Pandora moves past it.
There are a few things to like about this sequence.  If you watch Mimas, you’ll see it rotating.  It is in synchronous rotation, so that means we’re actually watching Mimas as it orbits (from this perspective) anti-clockwise; we can think of it moving off to the left, and the camera following it.
Pandora is orbiting in the same direction, but is closer to Saturn and orbits faster, “overtaking” Mimas as the camera follows the latter.  But note that it seems to slow down at the end.  That’s not because the camera’s taking photos more frequently, since Mimas’s rotation doesn’t slow down.  What I think’s happening is that we’re not looking at these two moons when they’re diametrically opposite the camera relative to Saturn.  Rather, Pandora is in a part of its orbit where it’s moving left and coming towards the camera.  Mimas, with its larger orbit, will keep moving left for quite a while, but if the sequence had continued, Pandora would have looked like it was moving back to the right as its direction changes more towards the camera.
Photographed by Cassini, 14 May 2013.
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