Lately, NASA’s Cassini orbiter has been delivering some stunning photos from its trips around Saturn, but that’s not the only fancy camera floating around a nearby planet. The agency’s Juno spacecraft has been hanging out around Jupiter for nearly a year now, and it just delivered one of the most jaw-dropping glimpses of the gas giant that we’ve ever seen.
This is Jupiter’s south pole, and like most of the rest of the planet, it’s absolutely covered in massive storms, electricity, and swirling masses of clouds that stretch for hundreds and hundreds of miles. The image is absolutely stunning, and it took and incredible amount of work to make it happen.
What you’re seeing is actually a composite of several different photos taken at different times so that the entirety of the south pole was illuminated by daylight. The photos used to make the image were collected during three separate orbits of Juno, each of which takes nearly two months to complete.
Juno has already revealed a great deal about Jupiter in its short time in orbit, and some of the information it is telling scientists is leaving them both surprised and amazed. The colossal, Earth-sized storms on its poles are one of the more shocking features that researchers are still trying to figure out.
“We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton says. “We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”