Jupiter’s Atmosphere

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NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. Captured by the Cassini spacecraft, this global view of the gas giant reveals a thick and active atmosphere. The planet is composed almost entirely of gas, hydrogen and helium mostly. No solid surface exists beneath the clouds, rather Jupiter has a liquid interior.

The atmosphere is active due to the hundreds of massive storms, referred to as vortices or cyclones, that churn up Jupiter’s thick cloud bands. While hurricanes and cyclones on Earth eventually stall or break up within days or a week, some cyclones on Jupiter can last centuries.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran

This image from the Juno spacecraft provides a close-up of the planet’s Great Red Spot. This vortex is 10,159 miles (16,350 kilometers) wide and is believed to have existed for at least three hundred years.



This false-color image was created using infrared data collected by Juno. It shows densely packed cyclones at Jupiter’s south pole. Five cyclones, with diameters ranging from 3,500 to 4,300 miles (5,600 to 7,000 kilometers), surround a lone central cyclone.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran

Taken by Juno’s JunoCam, this color-enhanced image provides a ‘blue’ view of a cloud system in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere.

Io’s Volcanism


NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The Galileo spacecraft captured this global view of Io, the third largest of Jupiter’s moons. Possessing over 400 active volcanoes, it is the most volcanically active body in our solar system. Its surface is being constantly renewed by molten lava and the strong presence of sulfurous compounds gives the moon its largely golden color. Red deposits are believed to be condensed sulfur gas and the black areas are still-warm lava.


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NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

These images, also taken by the Galileo spacecraft, provide a close-up of Pele (above) and Tupan Patera (below).

Pele is a very active volcano, whose eruptions deposit thick red rings of sulfur gas around its summit. The ring in the image is more than 808 miles (1,300 kilometers) in diameter.

Tupan Patera is a volcanic depression about 47 miles (75 kilometers) wide. The term “patera” is used for broad, shallow bowl-shaped features on a planet’s surface. They can be created via impact or volcanism. Io has 26 volcanic patera.