Some people may have questioned why NASA needed to send a billion-dollar space probe to the fifth rock gas giant from the sun when the Juno probe lifted off on an Atlas V rocket back in 2011. However, ever since the probe made it to Jupiter the reason the expense was worth it has been abundantly clear, even for the pictures alone, as NASA has once again illustrated with its recent release of another series of images from Jupiter, "Jupiter Blues."
The images—the clearest pictures we've ever seen of Jupiter— depict storm clouds roiling over Jupiter's surface, the shadow of one of Jupiter's many moons tracing out a dark splotch on the planet's reddish brown surface, a location that is rife with activity and a beauty beyond anything we ever imagined.
Since then, the probe, a 400-pound titanium contraption strapped to a 66-foot-long solar panel, has continued to gather new information about the planet in the months the probe has spent skimming more than 3,000 miles above Jupiter's atmosphere.
Studies published earlier this year revealed Jupiter is more chaotic and busy than previously supposed, a place where there are 1,400-mile-wide cyclones and with an enormous magnetic field that is 10 times stronger than that of Earth. Juno has already sent back enough information in the time it has been orbiting Jupiter to cause scientists to throw out what they thought they knew about the planet.
As Juno continues to circle Jupiter, the probe will collect even more information that scientists hope will allow them to better understand how the planet formed. This could ultimately give us a better idea of how the entire planetary system came to be. Eventually, at least, since this kind of scientific research doesn't exactly get turned around overnight.
But based on the photos alone, sending up the Juno probe was worth every single penny.