NASA’s spacecraft snapped this stunning portrait of Jupiter during one of its closest flybys of the Gas Giant. The flyby, or perijove, was the 22nd close brush with the planet that took place on September 11 this year. NASA’s Juno performs frequent dives towards Jupiter to study the planet’s surface and takes stunning snapshots of its atmospheric features. In this mesmerising photo, the probe appears to have snapped a large black hole in the upper hemisphere of the planet.
But there is no need to worry because the black hole is the shadow of Io – one of the four prominent Galilean moons.
The Galilean moons are the four largest satellites orbiting the Gas Giant, discovered by the astronomer Galileo Galilei in the 17th century.
Io is the innermost of the four moons, followed by Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.
From its position above Jupiter, Juno witnessed the moon slip in-between its host planet and the Sun.
NASA news: What is this large black hole on the surface of Jupiter? (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)
As a result, the moon blotted out the sunlight and cast its round shadow onto the cloudy surface of Jupiter.
Your labours of love have illustrated articles about Juno, Jupiter and JunoCam
In essence, NASA’s probe witnessed a lunar eclipse on Jupiter from high up in orbit.
Raw images of the Jovian eclipse were shared on NASA’s JunoCam directory where amateur astronomers and space enthusiasts have an opportunity to process them.
This particular image was tweaked and processed by software engineer Kevin Gill.
Members of the public are invited to dive into the JunoCam directory to have a go at processing the images.
Some of the best user-submitted images are often put on display by the US space agency.
NASA said: “We invite you to download them, do your own image processing, and we encourage you to upload your creations for us to enjoy and share.
“The types of image processing we’d love to see range from simply cropping an image to highlighting a particular atmospheric feature, as well as adding your own colour enhancements, creating collages and adding advanced colour reconstruction.
“For those of you who have contributed – thank you. Your labours of love have illustrated articles about Juno, Jupiter and JunoCam.”
NASA’s Juno launched into space on August 5, 2011, but it did not reach Jupiter until July 2016.
The spacecraft is the second probe to reach the Gas Giant after Galileo between 1995 and 2003.
Once the mission comes to an end, NASA will deorbit the spacecraft to burn up in Jupiter’s atmosphere.
1. The Jupiter-bound spacecraft launched from Earth on August 5, 2011.
2. In Roman mythology, the goddess Juno was the wife of Jupiter.
3. Juno was designed under NASA’s New Frontiers Program, right after the Pluto New Horizons mission.
4. NASA estimates the spacecraft will end its mission around July 2021.
5. Once Juno’s time runs out, NASA will deorbit the spacecraft into Jupiter’s atmosphere.