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Photos of ‘frosted cupcake’ clouds on Jupiter look like a dazzling dreamscape

Updated Oct 4th, 2022 11:09AM EDT
first 3D JunoCam renders of jupiter clouds
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt

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The first 3D renders from NASA’s JunoCam spacecraft have revealed a spectacular phenomenon on Jupiter. The small spacecraft captured data of clouds on the gas giant which, when animated and turned into a 3D image, look like frosting off a cupcake. This week, the renders were revealed at Europlanet Science Congress 2022 in Granada.

These first JunoCam 3D renders are a new way to look at the data that Juno has captured. The renders were made using data captured by JunoCam, the visible-light camera onboard NASA’s Juna spacecraft. Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016. In that time, the spacecraft has done multiple flybys of the planet to gather data and observe the gas giant.

In the first renders, which I’ve included a video of below, you can see the swirls and peaks that make up Jupiter’s cloud range. The animations were created by a group of scientists who shared the 3D JunoCam renders this month.

The Juno mission was designed to observe Jupiter in a way inaccessible to ground-based telescopes. Future 3D JunoCam renders could help share that data even better, too. And, since Juno is there, orbiting the planet, we can see down into the atmosphere without looking through the haze of our planet’s protective shielding. That allows us to capture data of the same places from multiple angles.

Access to future 3D JunoCam renders could also open new doors for how we study the planet’s surface. and help us learn more about the planet. Jupiter is a massive gas giant, so large that some scientists believe it may have eaten other planets to grow as large as it has. As we study the giant, we’ll learn more about it.

While James Webb has captured images of Jupiter before, Juno allows us a more in-depth look at the planet. And, finally seeing some of that data transcribed into JunoCam’s first 3D renders is breathtaking and a reminder that missions to the planets around our Solar System still have a lot to teach us.

More space coverage: You can see Saturn and Jupiter this month.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.