NASA: New Juno Image Shows Jupiter in Breathtaking Glory

While you were dodging bad internet pranks on April 1, the Juno spacecraft was flying away from Jupiter, wrapping up the 12th of its close skims over the giant planet. And as it traveled, it snapped a few unremarkable images.

Between then and now, Juno aficionados selected five of those photos, stitched them together, and worked the Photoshop magic necessary to turn the spacecraft's raw images into something truly worth looking at. This is the result: a stunning view of Jupiter's magnificent banded clouds and the tumultuous Great Red Spot from an angle we've never seen before.

The original photos were taken over the course of half an hour and more than 30,000 miles of travel. And because of Juno's unique orbit, we've never really seen the planet upside down like this, with the southern hemisphere at the top of the image.

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The Juno mission uses a special polar orbit in which the spacecraft approaches the planet around the north pole, skims over its surface while flying south, shoots out past the south pole and swings deep into space to avoid the dangerous belts of radiation that ring Jupiter. Then, almost two months later, the spacecraft repeats the basic maneuver, soaring over a different swath of planet from north to south.

That path means that when the spacecraft's camera snapped these images, Jupiter's southern hemisphere, marked by the distinctive Great Red Spot, appears at the top of the frame, and its northern hemisphere is at the bottom.

05_22_jupiter_juno Jupiter as seen by Juno on April 1. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstad/Sean Doran

These images were taken on the spacecraft's 12th flyby. Right now, the spacecraft is scheduled to make one more complete flyby, but in order to keep operating beyond this July, the mission needs to be formally extended by NASA.

The spacecraft isn't just producing the raw material for stunning images, of course—it's also already opened our eyes to incredible discoveries about Jupiter, like the giant storms circling its south pole.

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