NASA’s Juno spacecraft continues to beam back spectacular pictures of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, including this stunning view of a dark vortex spinning in a jet stream. It is surrounded by bright, higher-altitude clouds that have “puffed up into the sunlight,” according to a NASA description. The colour-enhanced image was captured 29 May when Juno was about 14,800 kilometres (9,200 miles) above Jupiter’s cloud tops at about 52 degrees north latitude. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran processed the image from Juno’s JunoCam instrument and named it Jupiter Abyss. Juno is now more than halfway through its extended mission to study the atmosphere and deep interior of the solar system’s largest planet.
Set your alarm for 6am GMT if you wish to see three naked-eye planets in the UK dawn sky this week. Find a location that offers an unobstructed view of the horizon from southeast to south and let the waning Moon be your guide to locating Jupiter, Mars and Saturn on successive mornings from 7 to 11 February.
The Gemini Planet Imager instrument has discovered and photographed its first planet. Dubbed 51 Eridani b, the body is a methane-enshrouded gas giant that is the most Jupiter-like exoplanet ever directly imaged, in a planetary system just 20 million years old. It may hold the key to understanding how large planets form in the swirling accretion discs around stars.