The imposing world of Jupiter is truly the granddaddy of the solar system, and its utter immensity is often difficult for our puny human minds to absorb. This gas giant and its swirling mega-storms are a haven of cosmic curiosity for amateur astronomers, researchers, and scientists attempting to plumb the depths of its myriad mysteries.
To offer a tantalizing glimpse of Jupiter's hypnotic gaseous atmosphere, NASA's Juno spacecraft just delivered an unprecedented glimpse of its surface in a series of new images taken during a recent flyby and the wonders it displays will have you starstruck. Here's a breathtaking image of Jupiter's turbulent northern regions during the spacecraft's super-close encounter with the hulking planet on Feb. 17, 2020.
Those long, thin bands that streak through the middle of the image from top to bottom are layers of haze particles that hang just above the underlying cloud formations. Juno has captured these luminous marks ever since its initial close-up pass by Jupiter back in 2016. Scientists are uncertain about precisely what these hazy highways are comprised of or exactly how they are generated.
Twin jet streams in the gas giant's atmosphere bookend the borders of this region where the stripes of haze normally appear, offering researchers perhaps a clue that those jet streams could contribute to the creation of Jupiter's lofty hazes.
To assist with the data dump and get the general public involved, JunoCam's raw images are actually available for private citizens to peruse and process into images at the official site of https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing. So if you're looking for something to do during the COVID-19 lockdown, this might occupy your mind!
This particularly striking JunoCam image was processed by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt as the Juno probe executed its 25th intimate rendezvous of Jupiter when the spacecraft was 15,610 miles from it cloud tops at a latitude of approximately 71 degrees North.