… no terms can convey what goes on on Solaris. Its “dendromountains,” its “extensors,” “megamushrooms,” “mimoids,” “symmetriads’ and “asymmetriads,” its “vertebrids” and “rapidos” sound terribly artificial, but they do give some idea of Solaris even to those who’ve seen nothing but a few blurry photographs and poor quality films. (Stanislaw Lem, “Solaris”)
Looking to this beautiful picture of Jovian clouds taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, one might well think that—maybe— Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris is not so far away…
The Juno spacecraft captured this image when the spacecraft was only 11,747 miles (18,906 kilometers) from the tops of Jupiter’s clouds — that’s roughly as far as the distance between New York City and Perth, Australia. The color-enhanced image, which captures a cloud system in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere, was taken on Oct. 24, 2017 at 10:24 a.m. PDT (1:24 p.m. EDT) when Juno was at a latitude of 57.57 degrees (nearly three-fifths of the way from Jupiter’s equator to its north pole) and performing its ninth close flyby of the gas giant planet. The spatial scale in this image is 7.75 miles/pixel (12.5 kilometers/pixel).
Because of the Juno-Jupiter-Sun angle when the spacecraft captured this image, the higher-altitude clouds can be seen casting shadows on their surroundings. The behavior is most easily observable in the whitest regions in the image, but also in a few isolated spots in both the bottom and right areas of the image.
Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran processed this image using data from the JunoCam imager. You can find the original here.
Food for thought on an old debate.
Featured image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/ Seán Doran