Hubble Snaps Jaw-Dropping Portraits Of Saturn, Mars
Earth has been treated to back-to-back planets in opposition, Mars and Saturn, and the iconic Hubble telescope captured both beautifully.
Having a planet in opposition means that it lines up perfectly with the Earth and the sun. With Earth exactly in between of the outer planet and the sun, humans will be able to enjoy the best view of a fully lit planet. Being in opposition also marks the point in the planet's orbit when it is the closest to Earth.
Mars was in opposition on July 27, while Saturn was in opposition a month earlier on June 27, so Earth has been getting spoiled with amazing glimpses of its neighboring planets in the past few months.
Saturn Shows Off Its Rings And Moons
The Hubble Space Telescope turned toward Saturn roughly a month before it came in opposition on June 6, according to an official report. At this point, the ringed planet was 1.4 billion kilometers (870 million miles) away from Earth and its spectacular rings are nearly at maximum tilt toward the planet, offering a breathtaking angle of Saturn to photograph.
There's also a hexagonal pattern visible around the planet's north pole, which is a stable wind feature that was discovered way back in 1981.
Aside from the gorgeous image of the entire planet, the space telescope also managed to capture six of Saturn's 62 known moons including Dione, Enceladus, Tethys, Janus, Epimetheus, and Mimas.
Entire Mars Is Cloaked In Sand
Just 13 days before Mars came into opposition, scientists trained the telescope toward it to take a snapshot of the Red Planet. During its opposition, Mars came as close as only 57.6 million kilometers (35.7 million miles) away from Earth.
Instead of crisper and clearer details of the planet's landscape, the Hubble image shows how the entire planet is currently swallowed by a gigantic sandstorm — which is a spectacle in itself. Mars' polar caps are slightly discernable, but the photo demonstrates how monstrous the storm over the planet really is.
"If you have binoculars or a telescope, you'll be able to see some of the structure," Geronimo Villanueva, a NASA scientist, says in Gizmodo. "It will look unresolved because of the dust storm."