A new image captured by NASA’s Juno Jupiter explorer reveals features in the turbulent atmosphere of the solar system’s largest planet in the same colors a human observer would see them.
Juno took the image on July 5, 2022, during its 43rd close flyby of Jupiter using its JunoCam instrument. The spacecraft was at a distance of 3,300 miles (5,300 kilometers) from the tops of the gas giant‘s clouds when the image was taken, zipping by at 130,000 mph (209,000 kph).
Citizen scientist Björn Jónsson processed the raw data from Juno to create two images. The image on the left hand side shows the view as it would appear to a human observer in Juno’s position. In the image on the right, Jónsson digitally enhanced color saturation and contrast, allowing the intricate structure of the planet’s atmosphere to come to the fore.
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The color differences in the enhanced image reflect variations in the chemical composition of different parts of Jupiter’s atmosphere and reveal the three-dimensional nature of the powerful storms that swirl in the planet’s clouds. The bright “pop-up” clouds in the higher atmosphere are also visible. The image captures a region at a latitude of about 50 degrees north.
Juno, launched in 2011, has been exploring the gas giant since 2016. Circling the planet in a highly elliptical orbit, the probe completes one lap every 43 days, making regular dips close to the planet’s whirling clouds. At its closest, Juno dives down to about 3,100 miles (5,000 km) above the gas giant’s clouds.
Originally scheduled to retire in 2021, Juno will continue its work until at least 2025. JunoCam images are open to citizen scientists to explore, process and help categorize. The images are available on the JunoCam image processing website (opens in new tab) via the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, which built the instrument.