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.”
Now that planet Saturn is effectively lost in the dusk twilight for UK-based observers, you may be wondering what has happened to the other four bright naked-eye planets. Far from disappearing, they have just transferred to the morning sky. From 8—11 October, the waning crescent Moon acts as a guide to Venus, Mars, Jupiter then Mercury in the eastern dawn sky.
In the small hours of Friday, 16 October, innermost planet Mercury reaches its greatest westerly elongation from the Sun. For those of you in the UK with a flat, unobscured eastern horizon and willing to get up an hour before sunrise, the next few days provide your best opportunity to see Mercury from the Northern Hemisphere during 2015.
Observations with the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array (VLA) have given astronomers an unprecedented look into the atmosphere of Jupiter. The scientists used the VLA to study the dynamics of Jupiter’s atmosphere from the visible cloud surfaces down to about 60 miles (100 kilometres) below the clouds.