NASA’s $1 billion mission to Jupiter has taken years of stunning images — here are some of Juno’s best shots

An illustration of NASA's Juno spacecraft flying above the clouds of Jupiter.

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An illustration of NASA’s Juno spacecraft flying above the clouds of Jupiter.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin Gill

All good things must come to a end, but Juno – NASA’s $1-billion mission to study Jupiter like never before – has gotten a crucial life extension.

NASA originally planned to destroy its tennis-court-size robot by crashing it into Jupiter’s bottomless clouds this summer. The rationale: Any earthly microbes stuck to Juno might contaminate the planet’s moon Europa, which hides a potentially habitable alien ocean beneath its icy crust.

However, as Business Insider first reported in June, the space agency gave Juno a critical new lease on life that will keep the probe flying until at least July 2021.

Juno launched from Earth in August 2011, reached Jupiter in July 2016, and has made 14 high-speed flybys, called perijoves, around the gas giant. Each perijove has helped scientists peer through Jupiter’s thick cloud layers, search for an elusive planetary core, and gather stunning images of colossal storms and chaotic cloud bands.

With the next phase of Juno’s mission at Jupiter now beginning, we’ve rounded up some of the probe’s most jaw-dropping photos, data imaging, and animations.

This story has been updated. It was originally published on April 27, 2018.


Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system — so massive, in fact, that it doesn’t technically orbit the sun.

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Source: Business Insider


The world is about 318 times as massive and 1,321 times as voluminous as Earth. Few spacecraft have ever visited it.

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NASA/JPL/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Justin Cowart (CC BY 3.0)

Source: Universe Today


Juno was the first probe to fly above and below Jupiter, photograph the planet’s poles, and begin to unravel their mysteries.

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A photo of Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

Source: Business Insider


The journey to Jupiter took nearly 5 years. To get there, Juno had to fly past Earth in October 2013 for a gravitational speed boost. Its photographs during the maneuver make our planet and moon look infinitesimal.

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Business Insider

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech


When Juno arrived at Jupiter in July 2016, the probe recorded the planet’s largest icy moons orbiting it in sync.

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Business Insider

Source: Planetary Society


The spacecraft soon began high-speed flybys of Jupiter, called perijoves. During each perijove, Juno takes astounding image sequences while it zooms over the north pole…

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Source: Business Insider


…Shoots past the planet’s equator at about 130,000 mph, and then exits over the south pole.

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Source: Business Insider


Each orbit takes 53.5 days and a perijove lasts a few hours. The maneuvers help collect unprecedented data while limiting the probe’s time inside Jupiter’s radiation field, which can damage electronics.

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Business Insider

Sources: Business Insider (1, 2)


NASA uploads raw image data from the probe’s camera, called JunoCam, to the web. Fans of the probe process it all into colorful pictures and the occasional animation, like this one of perijove 10 in December 2017.

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Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


“Jupiter is in constant flux so it’s always a surprise to see what is going on in those cloudscapes,” Seán Doran, a graphic artist and a prolific processor of JunoCam images, previously told Business Insider.

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Source: Business Insider


Some users boost the saturation and contrast to pull out exquisite details of cloud bands.

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Jupiter’s southern tropical zone.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin Gill

Source: Business Insider


But Jupiter’s gargantuan Jovian storms and the wild patterns they leave in the clouds stand out with little help.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

Source: Business Insider


Photos of the Great Red Spot have been a favorite among Juno fans. The storm could easily swallow Earth, and the probe photographed it twice — once in July 2017 and again in April 2018.

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Source: Business Insider


This stunning image is actually a blend of several photos captured by Juno. The image may be one of the last we get of the Spot — although the storm has lasted for centuries, it could vanish within a few decades.

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Sources: Business Insider (1, 2)


Lesser-known storm cells, many of which don’t have evocative names because they’re so short-lived, also swirl about Jupiter.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill (CC BY 2.0)

Source: Business Insider


Scientists who study Jupiter call this nearly Earth-size storm “anticyclonic white oval WS-4.”

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Source: Business Insider


Many storms in Jupiter form bands and patterns that are as hallucinogenic as they are beautiful.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

Source: Business Insider


Some bands leak into others, forming chaotic eddies.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Björn Jónsson (CC NC-SA 3.0)

Source: Business Insider


Interpretive color processing of JunoCam data sometimes makes its storms take on striking blue colors.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Source: Business Insider


Other bands create powerful chevrons that punch through cloud layers. The storm at the center of this image is many times larger than a hurricane on Earth.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

Source: Business Insider


NASA described this image showing a mess of storms as a “mind-bending, color-enhanced view of the planet’s tumultuous atmosphere” in a January 2018 release.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran

Sources: NASA, Business Insider


Doran called this image, which he created from data captured during Juno’s most recent perijove, “Planet of Screaming Skulls.”

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

Source: Seán Doran, Twitter


Jupiter’s collections of storms grow more chaotic toward each of its poles.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (CC BY-NC-ND 2.)

Source: Business Insider


The poles are regions that planetary scientists had only dreamed of seeing until a few years ago, thanks to Juno’s daredevil orbits.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

Source: Business Insider


This oddly symmetrical image of Jupiter’s north pole was made using a combination of photos from Juno’s first, third, fourth, and fifth perijoves. It also uses images from the probe’s aurora-mapping instrument, called JIRAM.

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/ASI/INAF/JIRAM/Björn Jónsson (CC BY-NC-SA)

Source: Business Insider


JIRAM scans Jupiter for temperature variations and electrical activity that are invisible to JunoCam.

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Business Insider

Sources: Business Insider, NASAJuno/YouTube


Researchers have used the data to model the planet’s storm-choked north pole in 3D.

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A 3D illustration of Jupiter’s stormy north pole made using infrared photos taken by NASA’s Juno probe.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

Source: Business Insider


Juno has completed 14 total orbits — the last one, which happened on July 16, yielded this solemn portrait of the planet. You can see stars twinkling in the background.

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NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Brian Swift/Seán Doran

But even with the mission’s new extension, the probe won’t last forever.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran

Source: Business Insider


NASA will eventually plunge Juno into the clouds of Jupiter to destroy it, thereby eliminating the possibility that it could crash into one of the planet’s icy, ocean-hiding moons.

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Half of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa as seen via images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Source: Business Insider


It’s important to avoid contaminating the subsurface oceans of Europa, Ganymede, and the other moons with bacteria from Earth — as well as any alien life that may exist beneath the ice.

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An illustration of a submersible robot exploring the subsurface ocean of an icy moon.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech

Source: Business Insider