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Just in time for Halloween! NASA’s Juno probe spots a ghoulish ‘face’ on Jupiter


  • The spooky image was taken during the Juno probe’s 54th close flyby of Jupiter
  • NASA said it was releasing it on what would have been Picasso’s 142nd birthday

With Halloween fast approaching, NASA has joined in with the spooky shenanigans by releasing a new image of a ghoulish looking ‘face’ on Jupiter.

The picture was snapped by the US space agency’s Juno probe during its 54th close flyby of the gas giant last month.

It captures Jupiter’s moody clouds forming a rather unusual pattern which creates the appearance of contorted eyes, nose and a mouth. 

Half of the image is in darkness on the planet’s night side, which NASA said only adds to the creepiness because it makes the face seem as though it is peering out from behind a door.⁣ 

‘Just in time for Halloween, NASA’s Juno mission spots eerie “face” on Jupiter,’ the space agency added.

Creepy: With Halloween fast approaching, NASA has joined in with the spooky shenanigans by releasing a new image of a ghoulish looking 'face' on Jupiter

Creepy: With Halloween fast approaching, NASA has joined in with the spooky shenanigans by releasing a new image of a ghoulish looking ‘face’ on Jupiter

It captures Jupiter's moody clouds forming a rather unusual pattern which creates the appearance of contorted eyes, nose and a mouth

It captures Jupiter’s moody clouds forming a rather unusual pattern which creates the appearance of contorted eyes, nose and a mouth

JUPITER: THE BASICS

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in our solar system.

It is  a massive ball of gas that is made mostly of hydrogen and helium, with some heavy elements.  

‘Jupiter’s familiar stripes and swirls are actually cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water, floating in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium,’ said NASA.

‘Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm bigger than Earth that has raged for hundreds of years.’

The planet is twice as large as all of the other planet’s combined, and the Great Red Spot alone is large enough to fit the entire Earth insidee. 

One spacecraft – NASA’s Juno orbiter – is currently exploring this giant world. 

Facts and figures 

Distance from Sun: 750 million km

Orbital period: 12 years

Surface area: 61.42 billion km²

Radius: 69,911 km

Mass: 1.898 × 10^27 kg (317.8 M⊕)

Length of day: 0d 9h 56m

Moons: 53 with formal designations; innumerable additional moonlets 

It is not the first time Juno has produced such an image.

The views it gets of Jupiter’s clouds from circling high above the largest planet in our solar system often leads to the so-called phenomenon of pareidolia.

This is where the human brain wants to make sense of what the eyes see so creates a meaning which isn’t real.  

An example is perceiving faces in largely random patterns.

These particular despondent ‘facial features’ were spotted by citizen scientist Vladimir Tarasov, who noticed the unusual shapes in Jupiter’s storm clouds. 

Oblong dark eyes are framed by clouds that form what look like an eyebrow and a squished nose, complete with nostrils and a sad smile.

NASA said it resembled a Cubist portrait with ‘multiple perspectives of a face’.

The space agency released the image on October 25, to coincide with what would have been Picasso’s 142nd birthday.⁣  

Tarasov created the picture using raw data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam instrument. 

It captures the gas giant’s turbulent clouds and storms along its terminator — which is the dividing line between the day and night sides of the planet. 

At the time the raw image was taken, the Juno probe was about 4,800 miles (around 7,700 km) above Jupiter’s cloud tops.

The aim of its mission is to study the composition of Jupiter, while also assessing its polar magnetosphere, gravity field and magnetic field.

On top of this, Juno has been monitoring the gas giant’s turbulent atmosphere, its weather, and aspects of the planet’s moons. 

Orbiter: It is not the first time NASA's spacecraft Juno (pictured in an artist's impression) has produced such an image. The views it gets of Jupiter's clouds from circling high above the largest planet in our solar system often leads to the so-called phenomenon of pareidolia

Orbiter: It is not the first time NASA’s spacecraft Juno (pictured in an artist’s impression) has produced such an image. The views it gets of Jupiter’s clouds from circling high above the largest planet in our solar system often leads to the so-called phenomenon of pareidolia

Its mission was originally scheduled to conclude in July 2021, only to be extended until September 2025 — or until the end of the spacecraft’s life if that comes first. 

Juno reached Jupiter on July 4, 2016, after a five-year, 1.8 billion-mile (2.8 billion km) journey from Earth.

Following a successful braking manoeuvre, it entered into a long polar orbit flying to within 3,100 miles (5,000 km) of the planet’s swirling cloud tops.

No previous spacecraft has orbited so close to Jupiter but two others have been sent plunging to their destruction through its atmosphere.

When Juno’s mission finishes, the probe will be guided down into the gas giant’s atmosphere until it disintegrates.

But until then, the hope is that it can keep producing weird and wonderful pictures like this one. 

How NASA’s Juno probe to Jupiter will reveal the secrets of the solar system’s biggest planet

The Juno probe reached Jupiter in 2016 after a five-year, 1.8 billion-mile journey from Earth

The Juno probe reached Jupiter in 2016 after a five-year, 1.8 billion-mile journey from Earth

The Juno probe reached Jupiter on July 4, 2016, after a five-year, 1.8 billion-mile (2.8bn km) journey from Earth.

Following a successful braking manoeuvre, it entered into a long polar orbit flying to within 3,100 miles (5,000 km) of the planet’s swirling cloud tops.

The probe skimmed to within just 2,600 miles (4,200 km) of the planet’s clouds once a fortnight – too close to provide global coverage in a single image.

No previous spacecraft has orbited so close to Jupiter, although two others have been sent plunging to their destruction through its atmosphere.

To complete its risky mission Juno survived a circuit-frying radiation storm generated by Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field.

The maelstrom of high energy particles travelling at nearly the speed of light is the harshest radiation environment in the Solar System.

To cope with the conditions, the spacecraft was protected with special radiation-hardened wiring and sensor shielding.

Its all-important ‘brain’ – the spacecraft’s flight computer – was housed in an armoured vault made of titanium and weighing almost 400 pounds (172kg).

The craft is expected to study the composition of the planet’s atmosphere until 2025. 



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