study of planetary atmospheres and geology, where evolving weather patterns such as dust storms can reveal much about the underlying processes. In comparison with probes that have to travel vast distances and require years of planning to visit the planets Hubble is also able to react quickly to sud - den dramatic events occurring in the Solar System. This allowed it to witness the stunning plunge of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter’s atmosphere during the period 16-22 July 1994. Hubble followed the comet fragments on their last journey and delivered incredible high-resolution images of the impact scars. The consequences of the impact could be seen for several days afterwards, and by studying the Hubble data astronomers were able to gain fundamental information about the composition and density of the giant planet’s atmo- sphere. Since the impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9, Hubble has continued to study impacts and events on Jupiter, improving our understanding of the Solar Sys - tem’s largest planet. Pluto and its surrounding moons have also been the target of Hubble’s ob - servations. Several new moons have been discovered as well as a dwarf planet beyond Pluto, which led to the discussion of Pluto being a planet. Hubble also observed the spectacular break up of comet 73P/Schwas - smann-Wachmann 3 as it visited the inner Solar System, the asteroid collision P2010/A2 and a mysterious disintegrating asteroid. A team of astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a fifth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle marks the newly discovered moon, designated S/2012 (134340) 1, or P5, as photographed by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on 7 July 2012. The moon is estimated to be 10 to 25 kilo- metres across. The darker stripe in the centre of the image is because the picture is constructed from a long exposure designed to capture the comparatively faint satellites of Nix, Hydra, P4 and S/2012 (134340) 1, and a shorter exposure to capture Pluto and Charon, which are much brighter. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)
Exoplanets and proto-planetary discs: How Hubble has made the first ever image of an exoplanet in visible light, and spotted planetary systems as they form Hubble’s high resolution has been indispensable in the investigation of the gas and dust disks, dubbed proplyds, around the newly born stars in the Orion Nebula. The proplyds may very well be young planetary systems in the early stages of cre - ation. Also thanks to Hubble we have visual proof today that dusty disks around young stars are common. The first detection of an atmosphere around an extrasolar planet was seen in a gas-giant planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 209458, 150 light-years from Earth. The presence of sodium as well as evaporating hydrogen, oxygen and carbon was detected in light filtered through the planet’s atmosphere when it passed in front of its star as seen from Earth. The details revealed by Hubble are superior to anything seen to date with ground-based instruments.
- Fall '19
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