Perijove 9: Incredible New Views Of Jupiter

This photo shows bunched up eddies or storms in Jupiter’s north polar region at the start of its close flyby on Oct. 24th. The polar regions tend to be blue Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstaedt and Sean Doran

NASA’s Juno probe took its 9th set of drool-worthy images during it most recent close flyby of Jupiter on Oct. 24. The spacecraft travels in a highly elongated orbit around Jupiter once every 53 days. For just two hours during that time, it loops in close to the planet’s polar regions to grab data and new images. That closest point is called perijove, when Juno skims just 2,100 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops while ripping by at 129,000 miles an hour (57.8 km/sec).

This is a view of Jupiter’s southern hemisphere that captures one of the white ovals in the “String of Pearls,” one of eight massive rotating storms at 40 degrees south latitude on the gas giant planet. Click here for a large version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Apricot and raspberry pudding? Nope, just more Jovian clouds, which are made of ammonia ice laced with other organics, photographed during the Oct. 24 flyby. Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstaedt and Sean Doran

The new photos show dozens and dozens of individual storms that take the shape whirling eddies and swirling vortices. Quite a few of them nearly the size of Earth. Think about something that big blowing by the neighborhood. Unlike the Earth, where weather’s powered by solar heating, Jupiter produces most of its heat through gravitational contraction. Yes, the planet’s still contracting from its formation 4.6 billion years ago, which keeps its core hot, about 43,000° F (23,000° C), four times the temperature of the sun’s surface. That heats works its way up into the atmosphere, where with the help of the planet’s rapid rotation, monster storms are born.

This photo of the planet along with its moons Io and Europa was taken after perijove as Juno departed. The next perijove, #10, happens on Dec. 16 with four more to follow until the end of the primary mission. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS/Gerald Eichstaedt/Justin Cowart

Jupiter’s clouds are art, pure and simple. No one would even think of dreaming up what nature does naturally on this planet nearly half a billion miles from Earth. Let it inspire us.

Jupiter’s moon Amalthea casts a shadow on the gas giant planet in this image captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during the previous perijove on Sept 1st. The elongated shape of the shadow is a result of both the location of the moon with relation to Jupiter in this image as well as the irregular shape of the moon itself. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Credit: A series of color-enhanced photos taken by Juno during perijove 8 on Sept. 1. For more awesome views from Juno click here or here. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS