Jupiter Sure is Purty.

This week’s issue of Science magazine features publication of the findings of NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter. While I read through it yesterday, nothing really caught my attention that wasn’t reported earlier about its findings. But talk of giant weather systems caused by huge plumes of ammonia swelling up from the planet’s interior, or the newly discovered strength of Jupiter’s magnetic field (10X that of Earth) certainly captures the imagination.

But what really captures the imagination are the stunning pictures Juno gave us of our solar system’s largest planet. Especially the close-ups of its polar regions that we’ve never seen before. This may be the biggest benefit of Juno – just getting more people interested and curious about planetary science!

I mean, just look at these images NASA released:

It’s just plain art.

If you want to do more to support planetary missions like Juno, consider joining The Planetary Society – they are not only funding their own research, but are very effective at lobbying Congress to continue funding missions like Juno. I’m a proud member myself.

You’d also be surprised at how well you can see Jupiter right from your own backyard. On a clear night, you can make out details in Jupiter’s cloud bands and its Great Red Spot quite nicely, and in full color, in a modestly-priced telescope. Here’s an image taken from my own 8-inch telescope, right from my driveway in light-polluted suburbia:

OK, Juno’s pictures are just a little more impressive. But there is something special about seeing Jupiter with your own eyes. If you don’t own a telescope, find a local star party and take a peek through someone else’s! It’s quite a sight.

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