Astronomy Picture of the Day

Jupiter's Clouds from New Horizons

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Jupiter's Clouds from New Horizons

Explanation: The New Horizons spacecraft took some stunning images of Jupiter earlier this year while on the way out to Pluto. Famous for its Great Red Spot, Jupiter is also known for its regular, equatorial cloud bands, visible through even modest sized telescopes. The above image was taken near Jupiter's terminator, and shows that the Jovian giant possibly has the widest diversity of cloud patterns in our Solar System. On the far left are clouds closest to Jupiter's south pole. Here turbulent whirlpools and swirls are seen in a dark region, dubbed a belt, that rings the planet. Even light colored regions, called zones, show tremendous structure, complete with complex wave patterns. The energy that drives these waves likely comes from below. New Horizons is the fastest space probe ever launched, and is zipping through the Solar System on track to reach Pluto in 2015.

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