The image, comprised of four composite views, was snapped on Feb. 17 between 10:31 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. PST, NASA said on its website. Citizen scientist Kevin Gill assembled the images.
“During that time, the spacecraft was between about 30,700 and 62,400 miles (49,500 and 100,400 kilometers) from the tops of the planet’s clouds, at latitudes between about 50 and 68 degrees South,” NASA added.
(Credit: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY)
The image is of Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. “While the universe’s most common elements, hydrogen and helium, make up most of Jupiter’s mass, the striking clouds that are visible at the top of its atmosphere are composed mostly of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide,” NASA added in the post.
Earlier this week, a study was published that said Jupiter’s Great Red Spot may be shrinking horizontally, but it is as thick as it ever was. The Great Red Spot has been observed continuously since it was first discovered in 1830.
Jupiter continues to be a source of fascination for astronomers. In August 2019, a study suggested it may have had a massive collision with a “still-forming planet” approximately 4.5 billion years ago.
Two of Jupiter’s 79 known moons, Europa and Io, are also a source of intense interest for researchers. In August 2019, NASA said it would explore Europa, an icy celestial body that could be habitable for humans and support life, as soon as 2023.
In November 2019, an international research team detected water vapor above the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa for the first time. It’s unclear what the oceans on Europa are made up of, but the Hubble Space Telescope detected the presence of sodium chloride on its surface, according to a study published in June.
The conditions on Europa have been previously likened to exoplanet Barnard B, a “super-Earth” 30 trillion miles from Earth. It likely has a surface temperature of roughly 238 degrees below zero and may have oceans underneath its icy surface, according to a July 2018 statement from NASA.
NASA is launching a mission to Europa within the next decade, a trek that could answer whether the icy celestial body could be habitable for humans and support life.