12 years after NASA launched its Juno mission to Jupiter, these are its most stunning images of the gas giant

Sophia Wesley
Sophia Wesley
8 Min Read
  • NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter and taking jaw-dropping photos since 2016.
  • The most recent images capture Jupiter’s cyclones, moons, and atmosphere in stunning detail.
  • The mission is also helping scientists understand how other gas giants evolve.

NASA has been flying spacecraft by Jupiter since the ’70s. But no spacecraft quite compares to Juno.

Juno is NASA’s latest Jupiter mission, and it has shown us a completely new perspective of the giant planet.

Here are some of the most stunning images from the mission so far, and how Juno has changed our understanding of Jupiter.

NASA’s Juno mission has been orbiting Jupiter and snapping stunning photos for more than seven years.

Southern hemisphere of Jupiter against the darkness of space.
Jupiter’s southern hemisphere is a chaotic mess of swirling gas and storms.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Rita Najm © (CC BY)

The spacecraft launched more than 10 years ago, on August 5, 2011 and is the ninth NASA spacecraft to explore Jupiter.

Jupiter photographed against the darkness of space.
This Juno image of Jupiter shows the distinctive bands that wrap around the entire planet.NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

As it sped toward Jupiter, Juno snapped a goodbye photo of Earth, proving its cameras were ready for space.

Black and white photo of Earth against the darkness of space.
The Juno spacecraft’s JunoCam caught this image of Earth as it sped past to get a gravitational boost toward Jupiter.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Juno finally fell into orbit around the giant, gaseous planet in 2016, less than a year following the previous mission, Cassini.

Jupiter against the darkness of space.
Juno snapped this photo of a “Jupiterrise” on one of its first flybys in 2016.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Alex Mai

Since launch, the probe has traveled more than 1 billion miles, and its JunoCam instrument has taken hundreds to thousands of photos.

Jupiter's hazy, swirly atmosphere.
Juno captures Jupiter’s hazy atmosphere in stunning detail.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Björn Jónsson © (CC NC SA)

Juno beams the raw data to Earth as black-and-white photo layers that represent red, blue, and green.

A half-sphere rendering of Jupiter against the darkness of space.
A raw image of Jupiter in blue, green, and red.NASA/SwRI/MSSS

Then, citizen scientists merge the layers and process them to make stunning, colorful portraits of Jupiter and its moons.

Jupiter's South Temperate Belt and Great Red Spot photographed against the darkness of space.
Jupiter’s reddish-orange south temperate belt with the Great Red Spot, which is the most dominant atmospheric feature in the planet’s southern hemisphere.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Navaneeth Krishnan (S CC BY)

They enhance the colors to highlight different bands of Jupiter’s atmosphere, storms, and clouds.

Jupiter's north temperate belt photographed against the darkness of space.
Jupiter’s reddish-orange north temperate belt, with two gray anticyclones.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill (CC-BY)

This enhanced image shows the complexity of Jupiter’s colors.

Colorful swirls in Jupiter's atmosphere photographed against the darkness of space.
The color saturation and contrast in this image were enhanced to sharpen the details of Jupiter’s atmosphere.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Björn Jónsson © (CC NC SA)

Juno’s orbit takes it far from Jupiter, then swings it back toward the planet for close flybys.

Swirling clouds in Jupiter's atmosphere.
Clouds swirl around each other on Jupiter.NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Alexis Tranchandon/Solaris

During those flybys, the probe has flown over Jupiter’s north pole, where eight storms rage around a giant, Earth-size cyclone at the center.

A blue and green image of cyclones at Jupiter's north pole (left) next to a composite image of these same cyclones in infrared (right)
Juno’s most recent image of cyclones at Jupiter’s north pole and a composite infrared image of these cyclones.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Navaneeth Krishnan S CC BY 3.0; NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

The planet’s south pole is no less stunning. Juno gave us the first close-up pictures ever taken of Jupiter’s poles.

Jupiter's south pole photographed against the darkness of space.
A photo of Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

Juno even captured this eerie image of a “face” in Jupiter’s atmosphere just before Halloween.

Clouds in Jupiter's atmosphere that look like a person's face.
Can you spot the face in this image? The clouds and storms resemble a mouth and a pair of eyes in Jupiter’s far northern region.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Vladimir Tarasov © (CC BY)

Seen together, the series of photos that Juno snaps during each flyby shows the spacecraft’s journey.

Progression of images of Jupiter taken as the Juno spacecraft approached it.
Seán Doran, an image processor, created this composite to show the spacecraft’s approach to Jupiter.NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The successive images show Juno zipping from one pole to the other in just a few hours, approaching Jupiter, and then flying away.

Progression of images of Jupiter taken as the Juno spacecraft flew away from the planet.
These images were taken as Juno left Jupiter.NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

But Juno’s mission isn’t about pretty pictures. It’s looking for clues about how Jupiter formed and how it evolved.

Jupiter's S. South Temperate Belt photographed against the darkness of space.
Jupiter’s white ovals.NASA/JPL/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Justin Cowart (CC BY 3.0)

That history can help scientists study the beginnings of our solar system and identify clues about Jupiter-like gas giants orbiting other stars.

Jupiter's swirling clouds.
Jupiter’s swirling clouds enhanced to show their intricate shapes and colors.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran

Juno measured Jupiter’s magnetic field for the first time, finding it far more powerful than scientists expected. Jupiter’s magnetic field is 10 times more powerful than the strongest field on Earth.

Jupiter's atmosphere photographed against the darkness of space.
A mass of swirling clouds and storms on Jupiter.NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

A year after its arrival, Juno zipped past Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a raging storm near the planet’s equator. It discovered that this cyclone goes 200 miles deep — that’s 50 to 100 times as deep as Earth’s oceans.

Gif of Jupiter's Great Red Spot swirling counterclockwise.
Scientists animated this Juno image of the Great Red Spot based on velocity data from the spacecraft and models of the storm’s winds.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Justin Cowart

Cyclones spin in the same direction as the planet, but anticyclones spin in the opposite direction. Both are found all over Jupiter in varying sizes.

A white anticyclone on the surface of Jupiter.
A white anticyclone swirling on Jupiter’s surface.NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill (CC BY 2.0)

Juno has also spotted the aurora ribboning across Jupiter’s south pole. They’re like auroras on Earth but hundreds of times more powerful and, unlike other planets’ auroras, emit powerful X-rays.

Red aurora on Jupiter
Jupiter’s southern aurora in infrared.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

The spacecraft captured the shadow of Jupiter’s icy satellite Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system.

Shadow of Ganymede on surface of Jupiter (left) and a black and white image of Ganymede (right).
The shadow cast by Ganymede on Jupiter’s surface and the moon itself.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Thomas Thomopoulos (CC BY); NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Gerald Eichstädt, a citizen scientist, compiled Juno’s imagery into a time-lapse video of its June flyby, which took the spacecraft past Jupiter and Ganymede.


During its 53rd close flyby of Jupiter, Juno captured the planet with its volcanically active moon, Io, floating in space.

Jupiter floating in space next to it's crescent moon, Io
Jupiter and its volcanically active moon, Io.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Alain Mirón Velázquez © (CC BY)

Jupiter has 95 moons. In this dramatic image, the moon Io casts its shadow on the planet. If you could stand on Jupiter, it would look like a full solar eclipse.

Shadow of Jupiter's moon Io on Jupiter's surface.
Io casting its shadow on Jupiter.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill (CC-BY)

Juno was originally set for a fiery death in Jupiter’s atmosphere in 2021, but NASA extended its mission through September 2025 so it could observe Ganymede, Io, and Europa more closely.

Cyclonic storm on the surface of Jupiter.
A cyclonic storm captured during Juno’s 23rd flyby of Jupiter.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY

In the process, Juno is sure to beam back more photos of the largest planet in our solar system and its neighboring worlds.

Swirling cloud belts on Jupiter's surface.
Colorful swirling cloud belts span Jupiter’s surface.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Tanya Oleksuik (CC BY NC SA 3.0)

Read the original article on Business Insider

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