We’ve had quite a few huge storms here on Earth in recent months, and they’ve done some serious damage, but they’re nothing compared to what’s brewing on Jupiter. NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which is cruising around the planet and taking in all of the sights, just delivered a photo of one of the planet’s colossal storms that looks more like a painting than a photo, but it’s very, very real.
The photo, which was taken late last month, showcases a gigantic swirling storm that is still raging in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere. The planet’s iconic weather systems have long mesmerized astronomers, and while they might be neat to enjoy from a distance, you most certainly wouldn’t want to be in their midst.
“The storm is rotating counter-clockwise with a wide range of cloud altitudes,” NASA explains. “The darker clouds are expected to be deeper in the atmosphere than the brightest clouds. Within some of the bright ‘arms’ of this storm, smaller clouds and banks of clouds can be seen, some of which are casting shadows to the right side of this picture (sunlight is coming from the left).”
The brighter clouds are many miles across, and the intensity of the winds and debris that is kicked up by them makes them look like milk swirling in a cup of coffee. The image was color-enhanced to help out as much detail as possible, but NASA publishes all of its raw imagery on its Juno portal for amateur astronomers and hobbyists to enjoy whenever they want.
The Juno spacecraft has only been orbiting Jupiter for around a year and a half, entering its orbit in the middle of 2016 after five years of flight time to the planet. It is only slated to conduct its science mission for a little while longer, and will rely on NASA to swing additional funding if it is to continue being used as a scientific tool. When its time eventually runs out, NASA will sent it into Jupiter’s atmosphere where it will be destroyed, much like the Cassini spacecraft’s final act on Saturn.
Juno has already provided some great looks at the mighty king of planets in its relatively short stint in orbit, so let’s all hope it has proven its worth and can continue to do so for a while longer.