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These Images Of Jupiter Are Nothing Like Your School Textbooks


We all know Jupiter as the great big pale red planet somewhere above us. We know that it doesn’t quite orbit the sun, and in our heads it looks like a massive marble filled with red, orange and cream stripes and that unmistakeable Great Red Spot just below the equator, the storm that has lasted years and years.

We’re so used to this view of Jupiter that it doesn’t even really cross our minds that it could look different (almost like seeing a picture Earth without North America in it…) but it’s really the only shot spacecraft in the area have managed to get. Galileo spent 8 years orbiting the gas giant and it’s moons but only travelled along the equator. Cassini and New Horizons both flew past Jupiter and took some snaps as they went, but these were more sideways shots.

But now, with NASA’s Juno mission, we have some new, incredible shots of the gas giant. This one was captured by Juno looking directly at the Jovian south pole, on February 2, 2017, from an altitude of about 102,100 kilometers above Jupiter’s cloud tops. Cyclones swirl around the south pole, and white oval storms can be seen near the limb — the apparent edge of the planet. This seems to be what Jupiter does best – storms are constantly raging within the atmosphere of the planet. It’s also surrounded by a huge magnetic field where charged particles create radiation belts. These really screw with electronics, but the field is weakest at the poles which is where Juno makes its closest approaches.

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Of course, NASA scientists tend not to leave things to chance, so all of Juno’s computers and scientific instruments are buried within a 400-pound titanium vault that cuts radiation exposure by some 800 times.

Juno took this photo in its fourth transit of Jupiter’s poles, having already sent images and data back to the team behind the mission beginning in August last year. What’s awesome is that the images from the Juno mission are all posted in raw form online for anyone to download and look at via JunoCam. Head there now and have a look!

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