Juno spacecraft snaps gorgeous photo of Jupiter's atmosphere, 2 big moons

NASA's Juno probe captured this image of Jupiter's atmosphere and the moons Io (above) and Callisto (below) during a close flyby on Nov. 29, 2021.
NASA's Juno probe captured this image of Jupiter's atmosphere and the moons Io (above) and Callisto (below) during a close flyby on Nov. 29, 2021. (Image credit: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; Image processing by Gerald Eichstädt/Thomas Thomopoulos © CC BY)

A flyby of Jupiter by NASA's Juno spacecraft has delivered a stunning image of the gas giant's cloud tops and the moons Callisto and Io.

The newly released image was taken by the spacecraft's JunoCam just under a year ago, on Nov. 29, 2021, as the Jupiter-exploring Juno completed its 38th close flyby of our solar system's largest planet.

The image shows the arc of Jupiter's horizon and the planet's churning, rippling clouds, while also capturing the moons Io (above) and Callisto (below).

Photos: Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet

The image was taken when Juno was about 8,700 miles (14,000 kilometers) above Jupiter's cloud tops, at a latitude of about 69 degrees, traveling at a speed of about 123,000 mph (198,000 kph) relative to the planet, according to a NASA statement.

Citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt used raw JunoCam data to make the original version of this image. Another citizen scientist, Thomas Thomopoulos, then further processed it, zooming in and making color enhancements, NASA stated.

Juno recently made a flyby of another one of Jupiter's four big Galilean moons, the ice-covered, ocean world of Europa, returning the first close-up images of the moon in more than 20 years. Juno also got up close to the fourth Galilean moon, Ganymede, in April 2021, delivering impressive images of the solar system's largest moon during that flyby.

The close approaches don't stop there. The Juno spacecraft — which launched in 2011 and arrived at Jupiter in 2016 — is next scheduled to make flybys of the violently volcanic world of Io in December 2023 and February 2024.

NASA notes that JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and process here, with more information about NASA citizen science to be found here.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.