This dramatic image, a color-composite I made from raw data captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, shows a bright band of high-altitude clouds on Jupiter’s northern hemisphere on July 16, 2018. Because of the abstract nature of Jupiter’s atmosphere in general (and a fun little phenomenon called pareidolia) one could find many different shapes in this view, but to me the band of clouds is reminiscent of a thick, twisted bath towel getting wrung dry.
The entire length of the cloud system is about 3000 kilometers—nearly the full length of the U.S. east coast from Maine to Florida or about the vertical height of Australia! Of course on a planet over 11 times the width of Earth, 3000 km doesn’t seem very far at all.
For an idea of the scale, you can see the feature in this low-resolution map-projected view of the entire region imaged below. It’s the bright bar inside the swirling belt of clouds just below center at left.
Besides the clouds themselves, what else really amazes me about this image is that it was captured on Monday, July 16 and seen on Earth later the same day! Although the finished version seen here wasn’t ready until Tuesday…hey, these things take time.
And what’s even better about this image is that NASA chose to highlight it on their website as a feature! You can see their write-up here and here. (I do so enjoy being called a citizen scientist by NASA.)
As always you can find all the images from Juno and other citizen scientists on the Southwest Research Institute’s Junocam site here.