NASA’s Juno spacecraft continues to send back stunning images of the giant planet, including this view captured on 23 May at a distance of 7,900 kilometres (4,900 miles) during the probe’s 13th close flyby. For orientation, south is at upper left while north is toward lower right. The North Temperate Belt is the reddish-orange band just left of center, which rotates in the same direction as the planet. To the left of the belt is the bright North North Temperate Zone with high clouds likely made up of ammonia-ice or, possibly, ammonia ice and water. Darker regions are thought to be areas where clouds extend deeper into the atmosphere with warmer emissions detected by Juno’s infrared senors. Jupiter’s atmospheric bands become less evident toward the north polar regions at lower right where multiple cyclones and darker anticyclones rotate.
The existence of a fifth giant gas planet at the time of the solar system’s formation — in addition to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune that we know of today — was first proposed in 2011. Now astrophysicists at the University of Toronto have found that a close encounter with Jupiter about four billion years ago may have resulted in the fifth giant planet’s ejection from the solar system altogether.
Whether you’re a casual stargazer or armed with a toolkit of observing gadgets, chances are you have caught a glimpse of Jupiter this year beckoning as one of the brightest objects in the night sky. It’s about to get its first visitor in nearly a decade, when NASA’s Juno spacecraft rockets into orbit.