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 impact of a small comet or asteroid on Jupiter observed by European amateur astronomers on 17 March has heightened interest in the solar system’s largest planet. While such an event is uncommon, Jupiter and its family of four bright Galilean moons provide a wealth of other interesting phenomena to view with small telescopes during April.
Astronomers from Boston University have discovered that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) may provide the mysterious source of energy required to heat the planet’s upper atmosphere to the unusually high values observed. Heating in Jupiter’s atmosphere 500 miles above the GRS is thought to be caused by gravity waves and acoustic waves creating turbulent atmospheric flows.