New photos of Jupiter show off Van Gogh-like clouds

If you think about swirling skies, blurry colours and oily pastels, you’re probably thinking about a Van Gogh painting, not Jupiter.

Yet, in new pictures from NASA’s Juno probe show just that. The probe, in orbit around Jupiter, regularly sends back pictures of the gas giant to earth, and they’re even more captivating and bizarre than you’d ever imagine.

The latest round of pictures, taken on 29 October, show Jupiter’s clouds in their entire artistic glory.

What you can see here is that the darker clouds reside deeper into the planet’s atmosphere, with lighter clouds floating higher up from the surface. The white spot in the top left corner is an anticyclonic storm, in which winds flow in different directions at higher pressures than at lower pressures, and the white clouds in the centre-right are pop-up clouds high in the planet’s atmosphere.

The image, published by NASA on 8 November, has been colour-enhanced to make its various components more distinct. NASA says that, despite this process, it doesn’t look hugely different to how the planet would from the human eye. The colour of Jupiter’s clouds, mixed with its depth, create an oily blur that’d be indistinguishable from the works of famous post-impressionist Van Gogh.

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Juno is currently in its 16th orbit of the planet, flying at a distance of 4,400 miles from the surface – where it will stay for the remainder of its life. The voyage has previously shed light on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, gathered data that suggests what lies below Jupiter’s swirling mass of clouds, studied the psychedelic cloud patterns of the gas giant, and beamed back horribly unsettling audio recordings of the planet’s “cries”.

Thanks to an expansion of Juno’s lifespan, the probe is to enjoy another 21 trips around the planet, before deorbiting and floating off into the depths of space. Twenty-one trips may sound like a long time, but it means we only have until 2021 to revel in the wonderful — and surreal — pictures Juno takes.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

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