NASA gives Jupiter the Van Gogh treatment with magnificent new image

Jupiter’s vociferous weather systems snapped on a Juno fly-by reveal a stunning cosmic oil painting.

Jackson Ryan Former Science Editor
Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Jackson Ryan
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt /Seán Doran

Although originally slated to crash into Jupiter this month, Juno, NASA's Jovian explorer, has been given a three-year extension to gather all of NASAs planned scientific measurements, NASA announced earlier this month.

If it keeps producing images like this, showcasing Jupiter's writhing, stormy face, I really hope they never crash the Absolute Unit.

The picture was snapped on May 23 as Juno swung past the planet for a 13th time, only 9,600 miles from its "surface", the tangle of tumultuous clouds that mark its exterior. The bright white hues represent clouds that are likely made of a mix of ammonia and water, while the darker blue-green spirals represent cloud material "deeper in Jupiter's atmosphere."

The image was color-enhanced by two citizen scientists, Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran, to produce the image above. The rippling mess of storms marks Jupiter's face like a stunning oil painting, a Jovian Starry Night with billowing whites curling in on each other, like the folds of a human brain.

NASA draws attention to the "bright oval" in the bottom portion of the image, explaining how JunoCam -- the imager on the spacecraft -- reveals "fine-scale structure within this weather system, including additional structures within it."

It's not the first time that Jupiter's menace has been caught and colorized either, but this Earth-like image snapped back in March, shows a side of the gas giant that isn't all about swirling clouds and red spots.

All of Juno's images taken with the JunoCam imager are available to marvel at and process at the Juno Mission homepage.