Here’s what the Great Red Spot would look like if you could fly to Jupiter to see the monster hurricane yourself

By Tom Yulsman | July 27, 2017 7:36 pm

A image acquired by the Juno spacecraft and processed by a citizen scientist reveals the Red Spot in subtly beautiful natural color

Great Red Spot

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on July 10, 2017. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Björn Jónsson)

Back on July 10th, NASA’s Juno spacecraft swooped low over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot for the seventh time. Since then we’ve been treated to some spectacular imagery — almost all of it enhanced to bring out various features in the persistent 10,000-mile-wide storm.

But what would it look like to human eyes if a person could have been aboard Juno? The image above, released by NASA today, answers that question in breathtaking fashion. As NASA puts it: 

This image of Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Björn Jónsson using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

This true-color image offers a natural color rendition of what the Great Red Spot and surrounding areas would look like to human eyes from Juno’s position. The tumultuous atmospheric zones in and around the Great Red Spot are clearly visible.

At the time that JunoCam acquired the imaging data on July 10, 2017, the spacecraft was about 8,648 miles above the tops of the clouds in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

The Great Red Spot has been likened to a hurricane. And in some respects, that’s right. But there are differences.

The spot swirls counter-clockwise around a high pressure center, whereas hurricanes on Earth feature low pressure at their cores. The largest hurricanes here are about as wide as the U.S. states east of Texas — dimensions that are dwarfed by the Great Red Spot, which is 1.3 times as wide as the entire Earth. And while Earthly hurricane winds top out at about 200 miles per hour, Jupiter’s massive storm packs winds as high as 400 mph.

If you want to try your own hand at processing raw images from the JunoCam — to produce stunning natural color views like the one above, or enhanced images that bring Jupiter’s turbulent atmospheric features to life in vivid detail — they are available for you to peruse and download at: www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam If you do it, and NASA chooses to feature your work, I’d love to use what you produce here at ImaGeo!

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  • Erik Bosma

    Anyone else getting a little tired of the overuse of artist’s renditions? Can I get a “Yeah!”?

    • DeeeJaay

      I’m getting tired of waiting for somebody to put a streaming video telescope on a swivel, mount it on the moon and point it anywhere other than Earth or the sun for a change. I don’t care if nothing ever happens…we’d at least be able to see for ourselves.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Kieseyhow KieSeyHow

        Start a Kickstarter, and contact one of the private space companies, maybe they will like the idea and you’ll be the “next big thing.”

        Or, buy yourself one of these:
        [https://phys.org/news/2017-07-telescope-revolutionize-amateur-astronomy.html]

    • OWilson

      Me too, I call it photo shopped news, and that’s my polite word for it! :)

      But let’s give Tom some credit this time.

      As he says, that’s exactly what we would see, if we were passing by, and looking out the window!

      • Erik Bosma

        Read above…

    • http://www.facebook.com/Kieseyhow KieSeyHow

      They are not really artists, and the fact is the average consumer is not interested if there are no bright colours and pop-culture details and comparisons. Fault it to low education standards and consumer brainwashing, not artist renditions. Most people would simply not be interested, nor understand, raw data.

  • Tom Yulsman

    Erik and OWilson: Enhanced imagery of Jupiter helps us see fine-scale detail that would be difficult or impossible for us to see in ‘true color.’ Those features are there — no one has Photoshopped them in. We just cannot see them because of limitations with our own eyes and brain. So I don’t have a problem with image-processing that brings them to light.

    Do you have a problem with, say, infrared weather satellite imagery of storms? We can’t even see in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. And the colors often applied to such imagery help forecasters discern important characteristics of storm clouds. What about false-color imagery from satellites like Terra, Aqua, Suomi-NPP and Landsat, used for a variety of scientific purposes. For example, to highlight differences in land cover types.

    That said, some of the image processing done by ‘citizen scientists’ using raw JunoCam imagery is done not just to bring out hidden detail but also to dazzle. And to be completely honest, I don’t mind being dazzled. Do you?

    • Erik Bosma

      Sorry Tom. You just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. I totally enjoy and greatly appreciate artist’s (I’m even on my knees) renditions or colour-enhancement because it offers a description. And most of us, I assume, are visual people. I’m just talking about when they discover something that they don’t have an image of and then think they need to show us something/anything to keep us interested. Either find the image or just give me a good description of what we DO know so far. For me, that is dumbing down the article.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Kieseyhow KieSeyHow

        I don’t think you actually read his comment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Kieseyhow KieSeyHow

      In fact, 99% of our reality we cannot see. So it really helps when technology can augment our pathetic sensory capabilities.

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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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