NASA have released a photo of Jupiter’s south pole, seen by humans for the very first time.
This stunning image was taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft and shows swirling storms in shades of blue on the south pole of our solar system’s largest planet. The cyclones you can see are actually the size of earth, and extend deep into the heart of the gas giant Jupiter.
The photo was created with multiple images taken by Juno on three separate orbits, combined to show all areas in daylight with enhanced colour.
Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said: “It was a long trip to get to Jupiter, but these first results already demonstrate it was well worth the journey.”
Juno launched in August 2011 and reached Jupiter in July 2016. The spacecraft took the photo at an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometres) above the planet’s surface.
Jupiter is known for having the strongest magnetic field in our solar system, but Juno’s data findings show that the planet’s field is even stronger than models expected, and more irregular in shape.
“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator. “Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others.”
It can take up to one and half days days for Juno to send its photos back to earth, transferring just six megabytes of data in that time.
Juno snapped this photo on 11 December 2016, which was colour-enhanced by scientist Gabriel Fiset. You can see oval storms streaking the landscape.