The lemon-colored gas giant of our solar system, Jupiter, is no stranger to chaos. And earlier this month, NASA’s Juno mission captured a mesmerizing shot to prove that point.
During the probe’s 43rd close flyby of the huge planet, its JunoCam instrument spotted watercolor swirls near the north pole. These mesmerizing views are deceptively breathtaking – they depict hurricane winds that can reach over 30 miles in height and span hundreds of miles across gaseous plains.
Although the image we see of the spooky spectacle is adorned with beautiful ceruleans, iridescent opals and strong teals, it is important to realize that it is digitally processed to contain such vivid bluish hues. After collecting raw JunoCam data — specifically an image taken by the space explorer about 15,600 miles (25,100 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops — citizen scientist Brian Swift enhanced these Jovian storms for analytical purposes.
For example, an achingly beautiful view of Jupiter and its moon, Ganymede, published earlier this year is not colorized in blue tones at all – and amight lead you to believe that the Jovian way of life is shrouded in hellfire. In fact, if we could hypothetically appear next to Jupiter right now, we would see these spirals projecting a variety of other colors – which are fascinatingly dependent on chemistry and direction of each one.
The counterclockwise and clockwise cyclones in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere, for example, offer their own separate palaces. Those in the southern hemisphere counter-clockwise and clockwise also have their own. For context, Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot” is a counterclockwise storm from the Southern Hemisphere.
But aside from color schemes, scientists are also generally interested in understanding Jupiter’s stormy weather, as such knowledge could help decode information about Jovian clouds and fluid dynamics in the atmosphere. . This endeavor is so large, in fact, that NASA has tried to outsource the work of categorizing storm images and other atmospheric phenomena from Jupiter.
You can even participate online in what is called the “Jovian Vortex Hunter” project. All you need is access to a mobile phone or laptop – so far, according to the agency, 2,404 volunteers have helped study 376,725 images for the mission.
Zooming out, Jupiter is home to many mysteries, which is why the European Space Agency is about to send its own probe to the peach-striped gas ball to join Juno’s cosmic expedition. Others have even tried to explore whether might hold secrets to unlocking the puzzles of this planet – to no avail.