NASA has released an image showing Jupiter with an eerie “face” on the surface just in time for Halloween.
The picture was taken on September 7 during the Juno spacecraft’s 54th close flyby of Jupiter. The camera caught a strange view of an area in the giant planet’s far northern regions called Jet N7.
The image shows turbulent clouds and storms along Jupiter’s terminator, the dividing line between the day and night sides of the planet. Jupiter’s swirly clouds lend themselves to pareidolia, the effect that causes observers to perceive faces in random patterns.
The low angle of sunlight highlights the complex topography of features in this region, which scientists have studied to better understand the processes playing out in Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Citizen scientist Vladimir Tarasov made this image using RAW data from the JunoCam instrument. At the time the RAW image was taken, the Juno spacecraft was about 4,800 miles (about 7,700 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, at a latitude of about 69 degrees north.
The space agency released the spooky image on October 25, just a few days before Halloween. NASA compared the images to one of Pablo Picasso’s Cubist paintings while honoring the Spanish artist.
“We present the @NASASolarSystem image to you on Oct. 25 — what would have been Picasso’s 142nd birthday,” NASA wrote in a Twitter post (now called X).
“The swirling clouds of Jupiter appear to form a frowning human face. Half of the image is in darkness on the planet’s night side, almost making the face appear as if it’s peering out from behind a door.”
Some observers think the face looks like Squidward from Spongebob Squarepant while others thought it was a heavily tattooed man.
Space notes that the swirling clouds on Jupiter are due to the planet’s turbulent weather systems. Powerful storms in the planet’s atmosphere create jet stream winds that create cyclones and anticyclones.
Last week, the James Webb Space Telescope discovered a high-speed jet stream in Jupiter’s lower stratosphere, approximately 25 miles above the planet’s clouds positioned over Jupiter’s equator, spanning over 3,000 miles with wind speeds of 320 miles per hour — twice the velocity of sustained winds found in a Category 5 hurricane on Earth.
Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Image processing by Vladimir Tarasov © CC BY