NASA's Juno Spacecraft Sends Beautiful Photo of Jupiter Back to Earth

The far-off planet of Jupiter is largely a mystery for most scientists and people on Earth but NASA's Juno spacecraft is working to change that. Not only is the craft that orbits Jupiter there collecting data to help scientists discover the origins of Jupiter, but it's also sending back some beautiful photos.

In early September the craft took a photo of the planet from its spot in orbit and captures the stunning view of Jupiter. The image is color enhanced but stunning and shows clouds on the planet in a Jovian jetstream as well as a spot called the "brown barge" on the planet.

The jet stream, called Jet N5, can be seen in the middle of the image, swirling away in colors of blue. In the upper left part of the photo, the "brown barge" is visible in the North Temperate Belt region, according to NASA.

jupiter from juno
A photo of Jupiter taken by the Juno craft on September 6 during a close flyby of the planet. NASA/Juno

The Juno craft captured the photo on September 6 at 8:58 EDT. At that time the craft was doing its 15 close flyby of the planet, capturing the view from above. In the case of the September 6 flyby, the craft was 7,600 miles above the tops of the clouds on the planet, which is part of the reason it was able to capture such a detailed photo.

Photos like the one taken on September 6 are captured by the craft and then uploaded to the JunoCam website where citizen scientists can vote on where they want Juno to capture a photo of next, discuss past photos, upload their own images of Jupiter and more.

Juno launched on August 5, 2011, and spent nearly the next five years conducting maneuvers and flybys to get the speed and power to make it to Jupiter in July of 2016. The plan is for the craft to stay in operation until July 2021, according to NASA. When the mission is over, the craft will deorbit and then fly into the atmosphere of the planet and burn up.

The main objective of the mission is to reveal information about Jupiter as a planet. "Juno will improve our understanding of the solar system's beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter," according to the NASA project site.

That work includes determining how water reached the planet's atmosphere, examine the makeup of the atmosphere like the composition and temperature it has, map the magnetic and gravity fields and more, according to NASA.​