What else Jupiter doesn't show
Infrared images of Jupiter reveal the structure of the upper cloud layers and thus make it easier to understand what is happening in the planet's atmosphere. Hubble's first Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) images of Jupiter show sharp snapshots of high altitude clouds, the ring and a moon.
The presence of methane in Jupiter's atmosphere, which is otherwise rich in hydrogen and helium, makes it possible to study the upper clouds. Recordings in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum are not suitable for this, as the lower layers reflect so much light that the clouds in the higher areas do not appear sufficiently highlighted. The methane gas resides between the bulk of the cloud cover and the upper layers. It absorbs reflected infrared light, making the top clouds appear bright.
The images with NICMOS also give a clear view of the ring of Jupiter and the moon Metis. Hubble was almost on the plane of the ring during the exposure, which is why only a thin line can be seen in the right part. Metis shines as a bright point at the outer edge of the ring. The moon has a diameter of 40 kilometers and is about 130000 kilometers away from Jupiter. The dark spot on Jupiter's disk (roughly in the middle) is an artifact of the imaging system.
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