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NASA serves up a breathtaking view of a shadow cast on Jupiter

NASA's Juno spacecraft watches as Jupiter's moon Io leaves a fleeting mark on the gas giant.

The sun enlisted Io's help to stage a shadow play on Jupiter.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill (CC-BY)

We're all familiar with Jupiter's Great Red Spot storm, but sometimes the planet gets to wear a different kind of spot. NASA's Juno mission captured a spectacular view of the gas giant's moon Io casting a round shadow onto Jupiter's swirling storms.

"As with solar eclipses on the Earth, within the dark circle racing across Jupiter's cloud tops one would witness a full solar eclipse as Io passes in front of the Sun," NASA said in a statement last week

Juno has been in orbit around Jupiter since 2016. It snapped the moon shadow in late 2019 during a close flyby. Citizen scientist Kevin Gill, who's also a software engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, processed the image to bring out the planet's dramatic colors. 

The shadow is about 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) wide. Io, home to active volcanoes, is just one of Jupiter's 79 confirmed moons, but it's also one of the largest. When conditions are right, humans on Earth can even spot it with a decent set of binoculars

It's hard to beat Juno's vantage point. The spacecraft has a front-row seat to Jupiter's stormy whims and has even spotted a dolphin-shaped formation and what looked like an infamous South Park character lurking in the clouds. 

For the complete Jupiter-viewing experience, be sure to check out the Hubble Space Telescope's new 2020 portrait of the scenic planet.