NASA’s Juno spacecraft is the first to capture clear images of Jupiter’s polar regions and in this extreme false-colour view, a striking ring of cyclones ranging in size from 4,000 to 4,600 kilometres across (2,500 to 2,900 miles) surround a huge, persistent polar storm. A similar pattern is present in the giant planet’s south polar regions. Citizen-scientist Gerald Eichstädt assembled this composite image using JunoCam data captured during four close passes of the probe by Jupiter between 17 February and 25 July. The exaggerated colour is partly the result of combining multiple images into a single composite. Says NASA: “The colour choices in this image reveal both the beauty of Jupiter and the subtle details present in Jupiter’s dynamic cloud structure. Each new observation that Juno provides of Jupiter’s atmosphere complements computer simulations and helps further refine our understanding of how the storms evolve over time.”
Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, reaches opposition on 10 June in the constellation of Ophiuchus (the Serpent Bearer) and is visible low in the southern sky of the UK through the night. Observers with small to medium aperture telescopes can see a number of shadow transits of Jupiter’s Galilean moons and view the planet’s Great Red Spot throughout June.
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.
Planet Venus — the brilliant lantern hanging over the west-northwest horizon at dusk — reaches its greatest elongation from the Sun on June 6th. It’s still a month away from reaching peak brightness, but before then it has a spectacular close conjunction with largest planet Jupiter at the end of June.