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Check Out These Images of Jupiter’s Glowing Cloud Layers

The new images give us a sneak peek at what Juno will witness as it orbits the gas giant.
Image: ESO

A team of astronomers released spectacular new views of Jupiter a week before NASA's Juno spacecraft is set to arrive at the gas giant.

The images will be used to create high-resolution maps and will help scientists better understand the planet's interior prior to the spacecraft's arrival.

"Over the past five to six months, we've been making regular observations of the giant planet," Leigh Fletcher, team lead from Leicester University said during a Google Hangout today. "We want to better understand what the planet is like today, before Juno's arrival."

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This view compares a lucky imaging view of Jupiter from VISIR (left) at infrared wavelengths with a very sharp amateur image in visible light from about the same time (right). Credit: ESO

The high-resolution maps and images were created by combining data from VISIR (a thermal camera on the Very Large Telescope) and the TEXES spectrograph on NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii to produce the first global spectral maps of Jupiter taken from Earth.

Using a technique called lucky imaging, the team extracted individual images from short movies of Jupiter, allowing them to select the images least affected by Earth's turbulent atmosphere. The result is these stunning new images of Jupiter's cloud layers, which reveal how Jupiter's atmosphere has been changing in the months leading up to Juno's arrival.

These observations, presented today at the National Astronomy Meeting in Nottingham, highlight how the gas giant's dynamic atmosphere is shaping its appearance.

A Google Hangout hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society with Leigh Fletcher.

"These maps will help set the scene for what Juno will witness in the coming months," said Fletcher. "We have seen new weather phenomena that have been active on Jupiter throughout 2016, including a widening of one of the brown belts just north of the equator, which has spawned wave patterns throughout the northern hemisphere, both in the cloud layers and high above in the planet's stratosphere."

When combined with the data Juno will collect, astronomers hope to have a better understand of Jupiter's inner workings.