Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

January 23, 1996

Beneath Jupiter's Clouds
Credit: NASA, IRTF

Explanation: This near-infrared image of Jupiter was made using instrumentation at NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, located on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, in support of the Galileo mission to Jupiter. The brightest spots indicated by the false red shading are relatively clear areas and represent glimpses beneath the outer layer of Jupiter's obscuring cloud tops. On December 7, 1995 a probe from the Galileo spacecraft parachuted through these clouds for 57 minutes before melting, all the while providing the first direct sampling of the conditions there. In a recent press release of the probe's findings scientists announced some surprising results. Discoveries based on probe data included a new radiation belt 31,000 miles above the cloud tops, relatively constant high velocity winds (up to 330 mph), no obvious water clouds, low abundances of Helium and Neon, lightning occurring only 1/10th as much as on Earth, and unexpectedly high temperatures. The Galileo orbiter continues its two-year mission to explore the Jovian system.

Tomorrow's picture: The Deep Field

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
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