Hubble Just Captured a Breathtaking New Image of Saturn, And It Barely Looks Real

Hubble has captured a new image of Saturn that makes you wonder if it's even real. The image is so crisp it makes it look like Saturn is just floating in space. Which it is. This image of the ringed-planet was captured when Saturn was at its closest to Earth, some 1.36 billion km away (845 million miles) on June 20th, 2019. The crisp image was captured with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3.) This is an artful image that wouldn't be out of place on a gallery wall. (As long as that gallery was cuted by a space nerd.) But it's more than just pretty: it's scientific. The image is part of a program called Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL.) OPAL's goal is to accumulate long-baseline imagery of our Solar System's gas giant planets, to help us understand their atmospheres over time. This is the second yearly picture of Saturn as part of the OPAL program. Saturn always looks so placid. Stately, even. But closer inspection reveals a lot going on there. When we think of storms and gas giants, we usually think of Jupiter, with its prominent horizontal storm bands, and of course, the Great Red Spot. But Saturn is a very active, stormy planet as well. Thanks to the OPAL program, we know that a large hexagonal storm in the planet's north polar region has disappeared. And smaller storms come and go frequently. There are also subtle changes in the planet's storm bands, which are largely ammonia ice at the top.