Photo: NASA / JPL
Launched to explore Jupiter’s atmosphere and poles, NASA’s spacecraft Juno traveled 1.74 billion miles to reach the gas giant. You’d think a journey of that length and scale would demand a nice DSLR to capture all the memories. Or, at the very least, an iPhone. But despite its trailblazing trek across the solar system, Juno is equipped with the equivalent of an ancient flip-phone camera — albeit one that’s radiation proof.
The JunoCam, as it’s called, sports a humble Kodak sensor that doesn’t even register at 2 megapixels. It was never seen as a core instrument but included nonetheless for its ability to engage and excite the public by producing dreamy images of an alien world. Since arriving on Jupiter’s doorstep in July 2016, it has done just that. The simple camera has captured a series of low-resolution photos that, with the help of public image processors, have become surprisingly vibrant scenes of chaos and wonder worthy of any art gallery’s walls. Here are some of the best.
Crescent Jupiter with the Great Red Spot
A crescent Jupiter is half-shrouded in the darkness of space, with the Great Red Spot clearly visible. JunoCam was about 285,100 miles from the gas giant when it captured this image.
Cyclones as large as 600 miles across swirl near Jupiter’s south pole. This image combines multiple photos taken by JunoCam over the course of several orbits.
When Jovian Light and Dark Collide
The public helps decide where NASA points JunoCam’s lens. This area, known as STB Spectre, was selected by citizen scientists who cast votes on the mission’s website. The image shows two distinct sections of Jupiter’s atmosphere colliding.
A Jovian Cloudscape
Juno was a mere 5,400 miles from the surface of Jupiter when it captured this high-resolution image of swirling, pastel-colored clouds just west of the Great Red Spot.
JunoCam captures the remarkable variations in color and texture on Jupiter’s south pole as it orbits 32,400 miles above the Jovian surface. The many circles and ovals dotting the planet are storms.
Jupiter’s Swirling Pearl Storm
One of the many storms swirling across Jupiter as seen from 12,400 miles above the gas giant. While JunoCam captures the raw images, citizen scientists use the data to create enhanced images that resemble works of art.
A Gas Giant Emerges From the Void
In one of JunoCam’s first images, a slightly blurry Jupiter emerges from the void of space, clearly identified by its Great Red Spot. This photo was created shortly after Juno began orbiting the gas giant.