Cue up Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow. NASA’s Juno spacecraft went in for a scenic flyby of Jupiter in September and sent back a lovely view of the moon Io dropping a perfect shadow on the swirly gas giant.
I took my own shot at processing the Juno raw image NASA released last week. You can also see what one of the pros did with it. Citizen scientist and NASA software engineer Kevin Gill shared his version of the image, which really makes Jupiter’s intriguing atmospheric formations pop out.
Astrophysicist Katie Mack took to Twitter to explain why the shadow of Io on Jupiter is so sharp while the moon’s shadow on Earth appears fuzzy during a lunar eclipse.
“Io is so big and close that it more than blocks the Sun (it appears 4x as big as the Sun from Jupiter’s perspective) and it’s so close that the penumbra (fuzzy outer edge of shadow) is super thin,” Mack wrote. So that’s why Io’s shadow looks like a portable hole from a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Juno entered orbit around Jupiter in mid-2016 and has sent back some astonishing views of the planet. NASA encourages the public to download and process images from the mission.
Juno isn’t the only eyes on Jupiter. An amateur astronomer caught sight of something big smashing into the gas giant in August. It wasn’t as gentle as Io’s shadow, but both events show that Jupiter is a happening place in the solar system with plenty of scientific sightseeing to offer us.