Bad Astronomy

Cassini: Ten years since Jupiter

Just a hair over ten nine years ago, the Cassini spacecraft caromed past Jupiter, stealing a tiny bit of the giant planet’s energy to hasten the space probe’s journey to Saturn. When it passed Jupiter at a distance of about 10 million kilometers (6 million miles), Cassini saw this:

[Click to enjovianate. Seriously, the full-res picture is jaw-dropping.]

This stunning shot is actually a mosaic of 27 images: 9 images to cover the planet in a 3x3 grid, and 3 images at each location to get red, green, and blue exposures to make this near true-color image. While the Voyagers (which also flew past Jupiter) and Galileo (which orbited the planet for about 8 years) took higher-resolution images, this is the sharpest color global view of Jupiter taken.

It’s one of my favorite shots of Jupiter, too, edged out by the crescent view of the planet from Cassini (with the added bonus of a crescent Io) as it left on its way to Saturn. You can see that image and more on the Cassini Jupiter Encounter page. The probe has been in orbit around the ringed planet for a long time now, but when you peruse those gorgeous images, don’t forget that in space, you can almost always get more than just one bird with one stone.

Tip o’ the Red Spot to Carolyn Porco, who mentioned this on her Twitter feed.