These Are Real? Jupiter’s Clouds Defy Imagination

It looks like devious ingenuity and camera tricks. There’s no way these images are of Jupiter, right?


Wrong, according to NASA. The photos captivating space nerds and casual stargazers show cloud patterns on Jupiter.

(Editor’s note: There’s no information to corroborate that these are the closest visuals of Jupiter as stated in the above X post.)

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has captured many photos of the Jovian clouds since it started making close passes in 2016. That was the year the probe arrived at the fifth planet, and it’s been collecting data from close range ever since.

jupiter's moon io with juno in render

Juno with Jupiter’s moon Io. Render: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Thomas Thomopoulos


It snapped the photos of recent interest during its 26th “perijove,” or closest orbit of Jupiter, in 2020. The tiny spacecraft approaches the giant planet at an extreme and dangerous proximity. The planet looks tumultuous, and it is.

Storms wider than Earth

“Stormy Jupiter is swept by over a dozen prevailing winds, some reaching up to 335mph [539kph] at the equator. The Great Red Spot, a swirling oval of clouds twice as wide as Earth, has been observed on the giant planet for more than 300 years,” according to NASA.

“The vivid colors you see in thick bands across Jupiter may be plumes of sulfur and phosphorus-containing gases rising from the planet’s warmer interior,” NASA continued. “Jupiter’s fast rotation –- spinning once every 10 hours –- creates strong jet streams, separating its clouds into dark belts and bright zones across long stretches.”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.