This month the NASA space probe Juno completed its tenth science orbit around the planet Jupiter.  The spacecraft came as close as 2,100 miles from the planet’s clouded surface, and sent back to Earth what must be the most beautiful images of any celestial orb ever captured.  Just take a look at these images above and below and see if you agree.  The most astounding are the images from the southern hemisphere of the planet (as shown above), providing a new vantage of our view of the planet.

Juno collects scientific data and records it until Jupiter is free of “solar conjunction” and can safely transmit the data back to the science team on Earth.  Juno was launched August 5, 2011, and arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.  Its “JunoCam” camera has produced some of the best images of any scientific instrument to date.  During these flybys, the spacecraft is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras, seeking to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere.  When Juno arrived at Jupiter, it moved faster than any human-made object has ever gone: 165,000 miles per hour.  This month’s photographs were taken at about 130,000 miles per hour.

New view of the northern hemisphere of Jupiter.  Courtesy of NASA Juno, February 7, 2018.

The clarity is phenomenal and the imagery nothing but spectacular.  With the exception of the Sun, Jupiter is the most dominant object in the solar system.  Because of its size and the fact that it was the first of the gas-giant planets to form, it has profoundly influenced the formation and evolution of all the other planets.  In studying Jupiter, NASA hopes to learn more about the origin of the universe.  The cloud features, which appear like something from Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, primarily consist of hydrogen and helium.

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