Jupiter's Breathtaking Cloud Formations on Display in New Juno Image

jovian clouds
High-altitude clouds swirl across Jupiter in this image from the Juno mission taken on July 16, 2018. (Image credit: Jason Major/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Watching the clouds go by here on Earth is entertaining, but they have some competition from these stunning clouds on another world — Jupiter.

The stunning new image comes courtesy of NASA's Juno spacecraft, which has been studying Jupiter for the past two years. Its instruments have been focused particularly on the spectacular stripy atmosphere of the gas giant, attempting to determine its composition, temperature and structure.

Some of that research has already determined that these cloud formations stretch as deep as 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) into the planet, mission team members have said.

But one of Juno's instruments is dedicated to sending postcards back home. Called JunoCam, it chooses its photographic targets for each orbit based on public voting. Then, all of its raw images are released for amateur processors to work their magic.

The result is incredible images like this one, which shows the North Temperate Belt, one of Jupiter's eye-catching atmospheric bands. When the image was taken this week, Juno was just 3,900 miles (6,200 km) above the top of the planet's clouds.

The image, released by NASA on July 19, comes from Juno's 14th close skim over Jupiter's surface and the 13th such pass when science instruments have been active. The spacecraft is scheduled to continue orbiting Jupiter until July 2021.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.