Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

November 21, 1997
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Jupiter: Moon, Ring, and Clouds
Credit: R. Beebe (NMSU), NASA

Explanation: An inner moon, an edge-on, planet-girdling ring, and high altitude cloud bands are visible in this mosaic of infrared images of gas giant Jupiter. The moon Metis, 25 miles wide and about 80,000 miles from the planet, is the bright spot at the upper right. Metis lies within Jupiter's faint, tenuous ring, and may be a source of ring material. Recorded on September 17th by the NICMOS instrument on board the Hubble Space Telescope, these pictures also emphasize atmospheric features high above the main jovian cloud deck. Methane gas in Jupiter's atmosphere absorbs the near infrared light causing deeper clouds to appear dark at these wavelengths. Clouds riding above most of the atmospheric methane are bright. The circular dark spot just above the brightest cloud band is an image artifact.

Tomorrow's picture: Surveyor Hops

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.