NASA’s Juno spacecraft was skimming the upper wisps of planet Jupiter’s atmosphere on February 2, 2017 when its camera snapped this image. Juno was only about 9,000 miles (14,500 km) above the giant planet’s swirling cloud tops at the time.
According to a NASA statement:
Streams of clouds spin off a rotating oval-shaped cloud system in the Jovian southern hemisphere. Citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko reconstructed the color and cropped the image to draw viewers’ eyes to the storm and the turbulence around it.
Juno is currently in a highly elongated, 53.5-day orbit around Jupiter, and NASA scientists announced on February that the spacecraft would stay put in this orbit. According to a report at spaceflight101.com:
NASA’s faraway Juno spacecraft will remain in a highly elongated orbit around Jupiter for the remainder of its mission as engineers opted against performing a burn of the craft’s rocket engine that is considered too risky after a pair of valves within the propulsion system had shown a suspect signature.
The elongated orbit means the spacecraft’s close passes over Jupiter’s cloud tops – when the most valuable scientific data is collected – will be few and far between. However, no significant loss of mission science is expected from the decision.
During each orbit, Juno soars low over Jupiter’s cloud tops – as close as about 2,600 miles (4,100 km). Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will be March 27.
Bottom line: Image of Jupiters upper cloud tops by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.