Massive Beauty



NASA’s Juno mission captured this look at the southern hemisphere of Jupiter on Feb. 17, 2020, during the spacecraft’s most recent close approach to the giant planet.

Not only is Jupiter the largest planet orbiting the Sun, it contains more than twice the amount of material of all other objects in the solar system combined — including all the planets, moons, asteroids and comets. In composition, Jupiter resembles a star, and scientists estimate that if it had been at least 80 times more massive at its formation, it could have become a type of star called a red dwarf rather than a planet.

While the universe’s most common elements, hydrogen and helium, make up most of Jupiter’s mass, the striking clouds that are visible at the top of its atmosphere are composed mostly of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

This high-resolution view is a composite of four images captured by the JunoCam imager and assembled by citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill. The images were taken on Feb. 17, 2020, between 10:31 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. PST (1:31 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. EST). During that time, the spacecraft was between about 30,700 and 62,400 miles (49,500 and 100,400 kilometers) from the tops of the planet’s clouds, at latitudes between about 50 and 68 degrees South.

JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at
More information about Juno is at and

Image credit:

Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Image processing by Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY

29 thoughts on “Massive Beauty

  1. Beautiful picture. Interesting is that the ‘latitudes’ are well visible. But the distribution over the planet is different from what we know from the Earth.

  2. I have read that the rotation of the planets can impact the way you feel. Depending on the time you feel better or worse.

  3. I have always found Jupiter terrifying. Saturn not. I don’t know why. Ditto for insects and crustaceans. Genetic memory ftw? 😀 Great picture, though.

    • Jupiter is mostly hydrogen. With the right technology, it could be mined. link Well, maybe in a thousand years or so. 🙂

    • Agreed. Even the escape energy makes it a worthless gravity trap. After man has mined the other planets to their cores, Jupiter and Saturn will remain useless compressed gas.

      • If we ever get fusion going, the hydrogen in it’s atmosphere might be worth something.
        On the other hand, there are lots of sources where the hydrogen is easier to get at, to use up first.

  4. ” it contains more than twice the amount of material of all other objects in the solar system combined — including all the planets, moons, asteroids and comets. ”

    to be nit picky but the Sun is also in the Solar system,

  5. It’s good that we have examples of just about every kind of planet in our solar system. That makes planetary science so much easier. 🙂

    About the only kind of planet we don’t have is a “Super Earth”. Although, I suppose one could be lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system. Astronomers are still looking for “Planet X”. Something seems to be out there perturbing orbits in the outer solar system.

  6. article says “if it had been at least 80 times more massive at its formation ” underline ” if ” . Yawn more scientists on the take . defund them now

    • Or if maybe thousands of monoliths ate that mass and ignited? “All these worlds are your, except Europa, attempt no landing there…” (2001, a Space Odyssey)

      • Taylor, my initial musings as well.

        Paul, because we know these things about Jupiter we know some more things about our own sun. I might think that if we could study the various layers and vertical interactions between these layers we could learn far more about flow within “almost stars” without getting broiled in the process. easier=less expensive

        Lest we doom humanity to this isle we had better learn more about the seas we’ll need to navigate.

    • paul,
      That’s really short-sighted. I suppose you would have said the same thing about Einstein; after all it was just all based on useless thought experiments, right? And who cares if E=MC^2, what can you possibly do with that anyway?

  7. I get the impression from these Junocam photographs that underneath the reds, browns, and creams of the cloud tops, the base color of the Jovian atmosphere is some kind of deep Savoy blue, kind of like Neptune but duskier.

  8. Where is the real mining wealth? Out there. No one claims it and all we have to do is go get it.
    Looks like a giant granite marble.

    • Too bad it is around a 16-20 year round trip to go there. any mining for Earth Usage would be uneconomical

  9. Magnificent display of organized chaos! Oh, how I wish I could swing my capable ship and crew into orbit for a real time ‘look’ at this incredible display…… whilst investigating Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto!
    Fly Me To The Moon

  10. I never could figure out what Holst thought was either “merry” or “jolly” about Jupiter.

    But considering everthing going on in our world right now, I’ll take your offering to listen again while considering the most massive planet.

    You can certainly hear reflections of Jove’s ponderous nature in passages of Gustav Holst’s “Planets; Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity”. As the seven minute piece develops, it seems inflected with unrelated emotions. Jolly not so much as mysterious, quirky, stolid, laborious, majestic … By 3:30 it sounds like a dignified commencement processional.

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