Stunning New Photos of Jupiter From NASA's Juno Mission

Wednesday, 08 November 2017 - 11:07AM
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 - 11:07AM
Stunning New Photos of Jupiter From NASA's Juno Mission
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Image credit: NASA
Jupiter is by far one of the most mesmerizing planets in the solar system—seeing these incredible new photos released by NASA, it isn't difficult to understand why.

The planet only barely missed out on forming into a fully-fledged star, not having quite enough energy and mass to be able to burst forth in a ball of blazing glory. Instead, the gas giant swirls endlessly, seemingly still seething at being forced to sit at the planetary kiddie table when it could be shining for all its might with the rest of the lights in the cosmos.

New photos from NASA's Juno probe show just how angry Jupiter is.

As part of the probe's eighth flyby, the on-board JunoCam snapped a few gorgeous raw images of Jupiter's swirling surface, as its clouds of gas run rings around each other in perpetual storms.

Then came artist Seán Doran, who took NASA's raw images, and used some Photoshop and After Effects wizardry to punch things up a bit, brightening the colors and highlighting the planet's storms so that they look a little less flat. The results are absolutely breathtaking and offer a shockingly realistic depiction of what Jupiter would actually look like to humans seeing the planet from a safe distance.

That right there is an incredibly beautiful planet.

The spinning stormclouds, looking an awful lot like blue ink swirls at this distance, are the result of Jupiter's tumultuous gas surface.

According to Doran:

Opening quote
"These images of Jupiter are not only awe-inspiring but also a little frightening. The environment is so hostile and yet beautiful to behold. Our brains are not really wired to comprehend the vast expanses revealed with these intimate portraits returned by Juno - we need to abstract them."
Closing quote

New research and scientific simulations suggest that Jupiter wasn't always so large and frothy. Once upon a time, if the computer models are to be believed, Jupiter was only a little larger than our own home planet and was essentially just a big ball of rock.

Over time, Jupiter's energetic volcanic activity released more and more gas and water vapor from the planet's rocky innards, until an atmosphere formed. The planet didn't stop belching out gas, and before long, the atmosphere had become so dense and thick that it essentially merged with the rock below, becoming a surface in and of itself, rather than just a thick atmosphere.

It's clear from these photos that (if that theory about Jupiter's origins is to be believed) this process of swirling activity hasn't ended yet—this glorious speck on the night's sky is still a heaving, chaotic mess.

Jupiter is rare among planets in our solar system in that it actually glows under its own steam, rather than merely reflecting light from the sun. In fact, Jupiter gives off more energy—more light and more heat—than it gains from the sun, radiating out from within its tumultuous inner core.

So-called "hot Jupiter" planets are not uncommon throughout the galaxy. Astronomers have spotted plenty of other would-be stars that didn't quite make the cut, and they all exhibit their own nifty local environments, depending on their chemical makeup.

There's still plenty about these kinds of planets that we don't understand yet, but the fact that Jupiter looks like such a brilliant giant marble when viewed up close, there's plenty of incentive for stargazers to keep looking to catalog more of them.

In the meantime, we can all get a good, fresh look at the fifth planet from the sun, and marvel at its beauty. It turns out we don't need travel to some other far-flung corner of the Milky Way to spot gorgeous and breathtaking sights of planets that haven't yet been fully explored.
Stunning New Photos of Jupiter From NASA's Juno Mission