Posted by: Kash Farooq | January 9, 2013

Space Scenery: Jupiter

Continuing my Space Scenery series

In a relatively short period of time – basically since the 1970s – we’ve progressed from only having ground-based telescope images of Jupiter to having thousands of stunning images captured by spacecraft. Jupiter has been explored by the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft flyby missions. It has been orbited by the Galileo spacecraft. The Cassini and New Horizons spacecraft went by Jupiter recently. The Juno spacecraft is in transit to Jupiter right now. More missions are people planned – ESA have announced funding for their Juice spacecraft, which will explore the icy moons of Jupiter.

There are a lot of images to choose from, so I’ll try not to get carried away!

I’ll start with the approach of Voyager 1. The project scientists must have been overjoyed when this data came through. At the time it was probably the best image of Jupiter ever seen (the technology on the Voyager spacecraft was obviously superior to the earlier Pioneer spacecraft).

First close-up view of Jupiter from Voyager 1 (January 6th 1979)

First close-up view of Jupiter from Voyager 1 (January 6th 1979).

There are also stunning animations of the Voyager 1 approach:

Voyager 1 Jupiter Approach, animated

Voyager 1 Jupiter approach, animated. You can occasionally see the shadows belonging to the moons of Jupiter flash across the disc.

Or how about a video? This video is by Bjorn Jonsson and he writes:

This movie is different from similar Voyager movies because I’m keeping Jupiter’s size constant. This is accomplished by reprojecting the source images to simple cylindrical projection and then rendering everything using the same viewing geometry. I also sharpened the images a bit to better reveal various details.

 

As always, all NASA’s data is available to the public. Anyone can go back to data collected decades ago and do something with it. Bjorn Jonsson is someone who does amazing things with that data. For example, here is his stunning reprocessed image of the Great Red Spot.

Great Red Spot, image processing by Bjorn Jonsson. The Great Red Spot is a storm that has existed on Jupiter for a long time. Possibly over 300 years. It is huge - large enough to contain two or three planets the size of Earth!

Great Red Spot, image processing by Bjorn Jonsson. The Great Red Spot is a storm that has existed on Jupiter for a long time. Possibly over 300 years. It is huge – large enough to contain two or three planets the size of Earth!

It’s like a painting! I highly recommend you click the image to see the beautiful full image. And for comparison, take a look at the original image released by NASA – nice, but I think Bjorn wins artistically!

And now to show what we can do from Earth (or at least, from orbit around the Earth). Here is an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. The moon you can see is Ganymede:

Jupiter and Ganymede imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Jupiter and Ganymede imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Impressive. Click to see the full size image. And even more impressive when you realize that Hubble took this image from about 750 million kilometres away!

Just like we see aurora on Earth (the Northern and Southern Lights), Jupiter also has aurora. Here are a couple of images captured by Earth-based Hubble and Chandra space telescopes (click to see the full size images):

Auroras at Jupiter's poles - both bigger than the entire planet Earth (image created from x-ray Chandra and optical Hubble data).

Auroras at Jupiter’s poles – both bigger than the entire planet Earth (image created from x-ray Chandra and optical Hubble data).

Electric-blue aurora on Jupiter (imaged by Hubble)

Electric-blue aurora on Jupiter (imaged by Hubble).

You don’t need a fancy space telescope (or spacecraft) to take amazing pictures of Jupiter. This one was taken by *amateur* astronomer Damian Peach:

Jupiter and moons Io and Ganymede imaged by amateur astronomer Damian Peach

Jupiter and moons Io and Ganymede imaged by amateur astronomer Damian Peach (image used with permission – click for full image and more details).

As I mentioned earlier, the Cassini spacecraft passed Jupiter (on its way to Saturn). It took a lot of images. In the image below, many images have been stitched together to create a cylindrical map. You can see a variety of features: colourful clouds, the bands, the Great Red Spot, white ovals and many small vortices (click the image for the huge 3600 pixel wide image):

Jupiter cylindrical map, created with Cassini data.

Jupiter cylindrical map, created with Cassini data.

And finally, this is probably my favourite image of Jupiter:

True colour mosaic of Jupiter constructed from images taken by the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera, on December 29, 2000

True colour mosaic of Jupiter constructed from images taken by the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera, on December 29, 2000.

All images not already credited above are from NASA’s image archive and Wikimedia Commons.

Related posts

Space Scenery series


Responses

  1. Man, I can’t wait for Juno to get there.


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