Jupiter’s north pole is nothing like Earth’s. We have Arctic ice, while Jupiter has a huge central cyclone surrounded by other, smaller cyclones. NASA released an animation on Wednesday that gives us a startling 3D infrared view of the gas giant’s swirling north pole.
The animation uses data from the Juno spacecraft, which is currently in orbit around Jupiter. NASA says Juno’s infrared instrument can investigate weather layers down to 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) below the planet’s cloud tops.
The infrared view really helps the cyclones pop, but also gives the north pole a surreal appearance, like a glob of lava or a cosmic pepperoni pizza. The video dives down close to the tops of the cyclones, giving a sense of their depth and complexity.
NASA says the colors give clues to the temperatures of the cyclones. Jupiter gets hotter the closer you get to its center. The yellow areas of the cyclones are warmer and deeper into the planet’s atmosphere, while the darker areas are colder and higher up.
Scientists are fascinated by Jupiter’s wild jet streams. “The massive cyclones that surround Jupiter’s north and south poles are enduring atmospheric features and unlike anything else encountered in our solar system,” NASA says.
The Juno mission launched in 2011 and reached Jupiter in mid-2016. It’s given us our most intimate look yet at the mysterious planet as it delves into the secrets surrounding its origin and evolution.