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Jupiter pictures: NASA’s Juno beams back stunning portrait of Jupiter on close encounter

NASA has revealed a spectacular image of Jupiter above the gas giant’s surface which shows ‘swirling clouds’ as a storm brews.

The high definition image of Jupiter shows a multitude of colours in the cloud tops above Jupiter as NASA’s Juno spacecraft continues to amaze. Juno – which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2017 – took the image 4,400 miles above the clouds, but it looks as if it is closer due to the sheer size of the ‘King of the Solar System’. The planet beyond Mars is named as such because it is by far the biggest planet in our galactic neighbourhood with a diameter 10 times smaller than the Sun – by comparison, Earth’s diameter is 109 times smaller than the Sun.

The latest image from NASA was taken during a Juno flyby of Jupiter back in 2018, but has been re-released in full colour, created by “citizen scientists” Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran.

NASA said: “A multitude of swirling clouds in Jupiter’s dynamic North Temperate Belt is captured in this image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

“Appearing in the scene are several bright-white ‘pop-up’ clouds as well as an anticyclonic storm, known as a white oval.

“This colour-enhanced image was taken at 4.58 pm EDT on October 29, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 16th close flyby of Jupiter.

Jupiter in pictures: NASA’s Juno beams back stunning portrait of Jupiter on close encounter (Image: GETTY)Juno took the image 4,400 miles above the clouds (Image: NASA)

“At the time, Juno was about 4,400 miles from the planet’s cloud tops, at a latitude of approximately 40 degrees north.”

Jupiter plays a huge part in protecting Earth from asteroids, some experts believe.

The massive planet has such a strong gravitational pull that it helps to keep the asteroid belt – located between Mars and the gas giant – in place so space rocks are not flying around the solar system.

It is also theorised the planet draws loose asteroids, comets and meteors in.

Jupiter is by far the biggest planet in the solar system (Image: GETTY)

NASA has said on its website: “Astronomers think that if it were not for the giant planet Jupiter exerting its gravitational force on the asteroids in the belt, the inner planets would be constantly bombarded by large asteroids.

“The presence of Jupiter actually protects Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars from repeated asteroid collisions!”.

However, research has also found that these asteroids in the gas giant’s orbit can push and shove each other to the point where they are ejected from the pull of Jupiter and alter their trajectory.

Some of these asteroids could end up on a collision with Earth.

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Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2017 (Image: GETTY)Jupiter pulls in asteroids (Image: GETTY)

Kenta Oshima, a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, wrote in the research paper that the objects which are of the biggest worry are the ones that are on a high-inclination of the solar plane.

The solar plane is the relatively flat and equal level which planets orbit the Sun on – anything above this has a high-inclination.

Objects with a high-inclination dip in and out of the planets and other celestial objects, interacting with the gravitational pull of all that is around them.

UK space industry (Image: EXPRESS.CO.UK)

As they do, their trajectories can slightly change, which is what could push them Earth’s way.

Mr Oshima wrote: “We pointed out the possibility that populations of undetected potentially hazardous asteroids exist at high-inclination locations of these objects.

“We point out that populations of undetected potentially hazardous asteroids of high eccentricity and inclination may reside in Jupiter’s vertically unstable quasi-satellite orbits, which can intersect the orbits of the terrestrial planets, including Earth by reducing their inclinations down to near zero via vertical instability.”

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