One of the fun things about astronomical data is that a lot of it is public; if you know where to look you can find it. And a lot of telescopes and space probes produce so much data there’s simply no way professional scientists can look at it all… giving "amateurs" (in the sense that they aren’t professionals, not that they aren’t possessed of vast talent) a chance to create images from these data.
And man oh man, am I glad some folks do just that. Behold!
WOW! That is, of course, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as seen by the Voyager 1, a spacecraft that flew by Jupiter more than 30 years ago now. The gifted astrophotographer Björn Jónssen reprocessed the images to produce this simply stunning portrait of the centuries-old storm. Remember: when you look at this, you’re seeing a storm that is easily twice as big as the entire Earth!
Björn posts his work on the terrific Unmanned Spaceflight board, a great place to see what folks are doing with space imagery, and where you’ll find other (and some far bigger) versions of this magnificent shot.
For more details on this, Emily Lakdawalla has written it up at the Planetary Society blog. She has lots of details and insight on this, and I strongly urge you to give it a read. I think it’s wonderful that so much of the sky has opened up for everyone.
Image credit: NASA / JPL / Björn Jónsson