Why Jupiter’s True Colors in a NASA Image Are So Exceptional

Undoubtedly more amazing than its colourful version is a picture of the gas giant that is boring beige in tone.

These days, I squint in mistrust before rejoicing in astonishment whenever I see a picture of something in the cosmos. I start to wonder: Is this really how that monster looks like?

Most of the time, scientists embellish their pictures of space with aesthetic embellishments. This isn’t only for fun (although it is pretty entertaining), but also because a small bit of colorization can emphasise the details of a planet’s surface or show cosmic light that is invisible to the human eye.

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This means that, despite NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s best efforts to persuade us otherwise, the Carina Nebula does not like warm, melting caramel. Venus is not a mustard-yellow spherical, despite what you may have learned in primary school. Sadly, the Veil Nebula is not an iridescent rainbow worm, unlike what the Hubble Space Telescope claims. I could continue.

So, if I see a glimpse of a world beyond Earth that I know isn’t coloured, I take my time looking at it. Last week, we were fortunate to see such a wonder.

Observe the left half of the image below, which was captured by NASA’s Juno mission. It roughly represents how Jupiter’s surface would seem if we could gaze upon it in the same way that we do the moon. Definitely the solar system’s king.

unable to resist looking to the right side? Same. But take care. One of those suspiciously processed pictures, that. According to a statement from NASA, it has boosted colour saturation and contrast to sharpen small-scale Jovian features. According to the agency, this alteration was necessary to remove noise or other artefacts in the portrait.

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The three-dimensional nature of Jupiter’s swirling vortices, colour variation caused by different chemical composition, and the tiny, bright “pop-up” clouds that form in the higher parts of the atmosphere are among the most fascinating aspects of Jupiter’s atmosphere that are clearly revealed, according to NASA.

Obviously, this depiction of Jupiter’s marbling is more aesthetically arresting, but think about how the left-side represents reality. There is a gaseous sphere in outer space that has enough room for more than 1,300 Earths. And…it likely appears just like that?

Björn Jónsson, a citizen scientist, gathered and combined publicly accessible data obtained with NASA’s Juno spacecraft to create our newest special lens on Jupiter. The basketball court-wide Juno spacecraft travels in long, looping orbits around the reddish-brown planet while it gathers data and pictures of its subject.

Since its Earth-based launch in 2011, Juno has been a powerful object.

It has returned a stunning photobook of Jupiter photographs, which range from watercolour vortices coloured in azure and opal to a breathtaking view of the Jovian atmosphere in pink tones and even duller, more realistic pictures of its layers.

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Additionally, this type of stop-motion movie was made possible by Juno’s point of closest approach to Jupiter on April 9, when it was just over 2,050 miles (3,300 kilometres) above the planet’s cloud tops.

Jónsson’s new gas giant image shows Juno at a latitude of roughly 50 degrees, 3,300 miles (5,300 kilometres) above Jupiter’s cloud tops. According to NASA, the spacecraft was moving relative to the planet at a speed of roughly 130,000 mph (209,000 kilometres per hour) at the time.

Juno has achieved yet another victory, and we have yet another meditative space gem.

Things like this cause me to experience a peculiar mix of existential fear, awe, and stillness. They serve as a reminder of our limited but remarkably intelligent perspective on the cosmos.

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