Jupiter is immense. The fifth planet from the sun has a diameter of 89,000 miles, and could easily envelop every other planet (and Pluto). The gas giant also has 2.5 times the mass of all those planets combined. Even its enormous storms boggle the mind: the Great Red Spot is big enough to contain the Earth.
Photos provide glimpses of Jupiter’s grandeur, but you can’t appreciate its stunning scale without some perspective. Gerald Eichstaedt and Seán Doran provide some with a stunning flyby video made from dozens of still photographs taken by the Juno probe.
Juno, launched in 2011, follows a highly elliptical polar orbit around Jupiter to gather information about its atmosphere and structure. Once every 53 days, Juno dips to a relatively low altitude of just 2,600 miles and makes a pass from north to south, recording six megabytes of data and imagery during the two-hour flight. When NASA released the images from Juno’s latest transit earlier this month, Eichstaedt, a mathematician who lives in Stuttgart, Germany, got to work.
He spent 60 hours combining 36 images into video with software he wrote. The program uses Juno’s trajectory data to determine to the millisecond the probe’s precise location when it made each image, then places that image on a spherical model of the planet. He’s done this before, and enjoys the challenge of accurately modeling so large a planet. “They are overwhelmingly beautiful,” Eichstaedt says of the photos. “Technically, these images from JunoCam are challenging, and I like to approach technical limits.”
When Eichstaedt uploaded his video to unmannedspaceflight.com, an online forum for space enthusiasts, it “took my breath away,” says Seán Doran. Doran, an animator and filmmaker in London, so loved the video that he spent 12 hours smoothing and enhancing each of the 2,400 frames in the video before adding an eerie soundtrack. The result is a striking video conveying the enormity and beauty of the largest planet in the solar system.