Planetary Sciences GeoFIZZ

Jovey McJupiterface and Other Flights of Whimsy via JunoCam

Jupiter has van Gogh skies, kaleidoscope geometry, and fearsome dragons, if you can just look at the planet with an open mind.

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It’s been a little more than 17 months since NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter. What has the spacecraft been up to? Oh, not much…just unlocking the mysteries of the gas giant’s gravity, magnetic field, turbulent atmosphere, and brilliant auroras.

But that’s not all. The spacecraft also houses JunoCam, its color camera. JunoCam is unique because the public, rather than the mission scientists, determine what spots on Jupiter the camera will image. Before each flyby of the spacecraft, members of the open online JunoCam community propose, discuss, and vote on points of interest that JunoCam should examine up close.

Here’s the fun part: After each flyby is completed, the raw JunoCam images are posted online for anyone to download and process into polished pictures. Yes, some public-created images highlight the mission’s scientific goals.

But others take scientific gravitas and throw it out the window, looking to hit a more whimsical note. This is, after all, the digital age. Below are just some of these images, created by amateur astronomers, citizen scientists, and artists who looked at Jupiter and saw something a little bit different.

Jupiter as a Work of Impressionist Art

Although many astronomers have long considered the swirling storms on Jupiter to be beautiful works of art, this avant-garde interpretation of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot pays tribute to French impressionist painter Claude Monet and his famous Water Lilies series.

A Monet-inspired rendition of Jupiter’s red spot, via JunoCam.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/David Englund

Jupiter’s south pole is no slouch when it comes to atmospheric turbulence, spots, and storms. This enhanced-color image from JunoCam’s early science results, taken from 52,000 kilometers above the atmosphere, combines snapshots taken over three separate orbits of the spacecraft. The patterns created by Jupiter’s complex magnetic field invoke the skies of Vincent van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows or Imperial Fritillaries in a Copper Vase. Some of the oval cyclone features are 1,000 kilometers wide.

A rendition of Jupiter’s South Pole, with swirly patterns, via JunoCam.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

And, of course, no astronomy-themed art gallery would be complete without a tribute to van Gogh’s The Starry Night. In this interpretation, a false-color image of Jupiter’s south pole is the backdrop for the iconic sleepy French village. Turbulent storms and atmospheric swirls are convincing substitutes for van Gogh’s postimpressionist-style sky.

A rendition of Van Gogh’s Starry Night with JunoCam images of Jupiter’s atmosphere as the background.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

A Mathematical Take on Jupiter

Despite being half in shadow, this geometric take on Jupiter’s south pole storms is reminiscent of the symmetrical optics inside a kaleidoscope or the fractal geometry of male peacock feathers.

Kaleidoscope image of Jupiter’s South Pole, created from JunoCam’s data.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Michael_Ranger

Some people just can’t stop themselves from spicing up their planetary science with a little galactic astronomy. This false-color view looking directly down at Jupiter’s south pole interprets the coils surrounding the bright pole as the spiral galaxy NGC 6814. The smaller spiral storms might even be background galaxies or bright foreground stars.

Swirls of a spiral galaxy meshed into data from JunoCam of Jupiter’s South Pole.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/CosmicRamonet

Is this the Great Red Spot or a psychedelic throwback to the 1960s? Trick question: It’s both! Artist Mik Petter created this mesmerizing take on Jupiter’s most prominent hurricane by converting JunoCam data into a colorful set of fractal-based swirls, highlighting the turbulence surrounding the centuries-old storm.

A study in fractals, re-meshed from JunoCam’s view of Jupiter’s great red spot.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Mik Petter

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Memes, Oh My!

Forget the man on the Moon. The face of Jupiter, also known as “Jovey McJupiterface,” is looking back at you. Here’s the whole image, which was snipped earlier: By flipping a JunoCam image upside down, one citizen scientist turned two of Jupiter’s pearly white storms into eyes suspended above a red, oval-shaped mouth.

Jovey McJupiterface, a rendition of a JunoCam image, stares back at you.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live on a hunk of space rock where you could see planet rise every morning? Wonder no longer! With a little creative image manipulation, plus a foreground rockscape from Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, Nev., and a starry background, this JunoCam image of Jupiter, Europa, and Io is transformed into a science fiction setting.

Jupiter rising over an alien landscape; a JunoCam image grafted on background stars and Red Rock Canyon.
Credits: Red Rock Canyon image: Shari Weinsheimer; background star field: Ronald Carlson; composite image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/@InvaderXan/supernovacondensate.net, CC BY

With piercing eyes, a scaly forehead, nostrils, teeth, and even curling wisps of smoke escaping its mouth, this Jovian dragon could be the stalwart guardian of our lonely solar system. This dragon was born from a JunoCam image containing one pearly white oval storm and a few stripes that was rotated, color enhanced, and mirrored down the center to create a mythical dragon out of Earth’s largest sibling.

A dragon face, rendered from JunoCam images of Jupiter.
Credit: NASA/ Gerald Eichstät/Seán Doran

Throughout the span of its approximately 2-year mission, Juno will make 32 polar orbits around the planet, skimming within 5,000 kilometers of the cloud tops. What new artistic pursuits will its journey inspire? We can’t wait to find out!

—Kimberly M. S. Cartier (@AstroKimCartier), News Writing and Production Intern

Editor’s Note: We are delighted to bring the GeoFIZZ column back to Eos!

Citation: Cartier, K. M. S. (2017), Jovey McJupiterface and other flights of whimsy via JunoCam, Eos, 98, https://doi.org/10.1029/2017EO088265. Published on 07 December 2017.
© 2017. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • Jiyoung Kim

    What is science? What is art? What a beautiful Jupiter! Thanks JunoCam…