NASA’s Juno probe captures a stunning photo of Jupiter’s clouds that look like frosting on a cupcake

Like frosting on a cupcake! Swirls and cloud tops of Jupiter seen in stunning detail in stunning new 3D renderings from NASA’s Juno probe

  • NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter since arriving at the planet in 2016
  • The stunning photo was captured by JunoCam – the visible light camera on board Juno
  • They may look like icing on a cupcake, but the swirls and decorative peaks are actually clouds in Jupiter’s sky

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At first glance at this photo, you’ll be forgiven for mistaking it as a close-up of the icing on a delicious cupcake.

But the swirls and ornate peaks are actually clouds in Jupiter’s sky, imaged by NASA’s Juno probe.

Software developer Gerald Eichstadt has created stunning 3D renderings of clouds based on Juno data, which he presented at this week’s Europlanet Science Conference.

“The Juno mission provides us with an opportunity to observe Jupiter in a way that is essentially inaccessible through ground-based telescopic observations,” said Dr. Eichstedt.

At first glance at this photo, you’ll be forgiven for mistaking it as a close-up of the icing on a delicious cupcake. But the swirls and ornate peaks are actually clouds in Jupiter’s sky, which were photographed by NASA’s Juno probe.

Jupiter: the basics

orbital: 12 years

Distance from the sun: 750 million km

surface area: 61.42 billion square kilometers

radius: 69,911 km

Mass: 1.898 x 10^27 kg (317.8 m3)

Length of the day: 0d 9h 56m

moons: 53 with official designations; Unlimited additional satellites

We can look at the same features of the cloud from very different angles in just a few minutes.

This opened a new opportunity to derive 3D elevation models of Jupiter’s cloud tops.

Pictures of gorgeous chaotic storms on Jupiter seem to come to life, showing clouds rising at different heights.

Juno is a NASA space probe that has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016.

On board, it has a visible optical camera called JunoCamera, which regularly takes stunning pictures of Jupiter and its moons.

Based on the different ways in which sunlight is reflected and scattered by Jupiter’s clouds, the researchers were able to determine the height of the cloud tops in the Juno images.

Dr. Eichstadt explained that clouds in the upper atmosphere have the greatest amount of solar illumination.

But deep in the atmosphere, more light is absorbed before it is scattered back onto the camera by the cloud tops.

Understanding the relative heights of the spiny plumes within the eddies can help scientists reveal more about the elements that make up them.

Software developer Gerald Eichstadt has created stunning 3D displays based on Juno data, which he presented at this week's Europlanet Science Conference.

Software developer Gerald Eichstadt has created stunning 3D displays based on Juno data, which he presented at this week’s Europlanet Science Conference.

“From theoretical models, clouds are expected to consist of different chemical types, ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide, and water ice from top to bottom,” said Dr. Eichstat.

“Once our data has been calibrated thanks to other measurements of the same cloud tops, we will test and refine the theoretical predictions and get a better 3D picture of the chemical composition.”

Juno reached Jupiter on July 4, 2016, after a five-year journey, 1.8 billion miles (2.8 billion km) from Earth.

After a successful braking maneuver, it entered a long polar orbit, flying 3,100 miles (5,000 km) from the planet’s swirling cloud tops.

The probe travels only 2,600 miles (4,200 km) from the planet’s clouds once every two weeks — very close to providing global coverage in a single image.

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and the largest in our solar system.  It is a huge ball of gas composed mostly of hydrogen and helium with some heavy elements

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and the largest in our solar system. It is a huge ball of gas composed mostly of hydrogen and helium with some heavy elements

No previous spacecraft has orbited so close to Jupiter, despite sending two more sinking to destroy it through its atmosphere.

To complete its perilous mission, Juno survived a deadly radiation storm caused by Jupiter’s strong magnetic field.

The vortex of high-energy particles traveling at nearly the speed of light is the harshest radiation environment in the solar system.

To cope with the conditions, the spacecraft was protected with special radiation-reinforced wires and a sensor shield.

Its all-important ‘brain’ – the spacecraft’s flight computer – was housed in an armored vault made of titanium and weighed about 400 pounds (172 kg).

The spacecraft is expected to study the composition of the planet’s atmosphere until 2025.

How NASA’s Juno probe will reveal the secrets of the largest planet in the solar system

The Juno probe arrived at Jupiter in 2016 after a five-year journey and 1.8 billion miles from Earth

The Juno probe arrived at Jupiter in 2016 after a five-year journey and 1.8 billion miles from Earth

Juno reached Jupiter on July 4, 2016, after a five-year journey, 1.8 billion miles (2.8 billion km) from Earth.

After a successful braking maneuver, it entered a long polar orbit and flew 3,100 miles (5,000 km) from the planet’s swirling cloud tops.

The probe blasted just 2,600 miles (4,200 km) from the planet’s clouds once every two weeks — very close to providing global coverage in a single image.

No previous spacecraft has orbited so close to Jupiter, despite sending two more sinking to destroy it through its atmosphere.

To complete its perilous mission, Juno survived a deadly radiation storm caused by Jupiter’s strong magnetic field.

The vortex of high-energy particles traveling at nearly the speed of light is the harshest radiation environment in the solar system.

To cope with the conditions, the spacecraft was protected with special radiation-reinforced wires and a sensor shield.

Its all-important ‘brain’ – the spacecraft’s flight computer – was housed in an armored vault made of titanium and weighed about 400 pounds (172 kg).

The spacecraft is expected to study the composition of the planet’s atmosphere until 2025.

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