This content is not available in your region

Stunning pictures of Mars and Saturn are released

Access to the comments Comments
By Alice Tidey
New images of Saturn (L) and Mars (R) have been released.
New images of Saturn (L) and Mars (R) have been released.   -   Copyright  Saturn: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team, and J. DePasquale (STScI); Mars: NASA, ESA, and STScI

Stunning pictures of Mars and Saturn taken as the two planets were making their closest approach to Earth this year have been released.

The pictures were taken in June and July by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and show that "Earth isn't the only planet where intense spring and summer storms wreak havoc," the US agency said in a statement.

Both pictures were captured when the planets were near opposition — when they are lined up with the Sun and Earth and at their closest to Earth for a given year — thus appearing brightest in the sky.

The snapshot of Mars, captured on July 18, reveals that it is in the midst of a global dust storm, with spring in the southern hemisphere.

"Each Martian year, moderately large dust storms cover continent-sized areas and last for weeks at a time," NASA explained.

"Gobal dust storms — lasting for weeks or months — tend to happen during the spring and summer in the southern hemisphere, when Mars is closest to the Sun and heating is at a maximum to generate winds," it added.

The image of Saturn was taken on June 6 when its ring system was near its maximum tilt towards Earth, allowing for a beautiful view of the rings and the gaps between them.

"Though all of the gas giants boast rings, Saturn's are the largest and most spectacular, stretching out to eight times the radius of the planet," ESA wrote in a statement.

The planet's atmoshere is now more active as the northern hemosphere is going through summer.

"This may be responsible for a string of bright clouds visible near the northern polar region that are the remnants of a disintegrating storm," NASA wrote.

The observations captured by Hubble, as well as the spacecraft now orbiting Mars, will help astronomers study atmospheric changes on the two planets.