Juno Photos Used to Create 3D Render of Jupiter’s ‘Frosted Cupcake’ Clouds

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Data from NASA’s Juno spacecraft was used to create this computer animation of a flight over Jupiter’s clouds which appear like frosted cupcakes.

Views of Jupiter are usually flat images, but scientists wanted to know what the planet’s famous raging storms look like with a sense of depth so created 3D renders based on red-filtered image data from JunoCam.

The resulting video takes viewers on a virtual flight over clouds that really do look like swirling, frosted cupcakes with lots of pointed tips peeking through.

The image that underlines the animation was taken from an altitude of 13,536 kilometers above the planet’s clouds on the probe’s 43rd close Jupiter flyby.

JunoCam is the wide-angle visible light imager aboard the NASA probe and that information was then plotted as a 3D elevation landscape.

The animation project was led by citizen scientist and space image processor Geral Eichstadt. The German mathematician regularly works on translating data from JunoCam into spectacular images.

“The Juno mission provides us with an opportunity to observe Jupiter in a way which is essentially inaccessible by Earth-based telescopic observations,” says Eichstadt.

“We can look at the same cloud features from very different angles within only a few minutes,” he said in a Europlanet statement on Wednesday. Eichstadt presented the results of the project at the Europlanet Science Congress meeting this week.

The bright cloud-tops generally correlate to a higher elevation, particularly when observed in Juno’s 890-nanometer methane absorption band. Scientists are working on a camera calibration that will further translate the brightness of landscapes into models of physical cloud-top elevations.

Jupiter has a diameter almost eleven times that of the Earth and is 88,846 miles (142,984 kilometers) wide. Despite being massive, Jupiter is invariably portrayed as a smooth marble hanging against the darkness of space, but the above video gives the planet layers and depth.


Over the years, NASA’s Juno probe has captured some of the most beautiful photos of Jupiter which it has been orbiting since 2016.

On board, JunoCam is a visible-light camera with a field of view of 58 degrees and has four filters; red, green, and, blue, that filter visible light. While the fourth flter, a methane band, provides color imaging.

Image credits: All photos by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt.

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