Jupiter’s Great Red Spot gets a lot of attention, understandably, but did you know that the gas giant also wears a pearl necklace? NASA’s Juno spacecraft snapped a photo of one of the pearls — a massive counterclockwise rotating storm on the planet’s southern hemisphere.
According to NASA, Jupiter has worn the string of pearls since 1986, and there have been as many as nine or as few as six pearls at a time. Right now, there are eight — this particular pearl is lucky number seven, a NASA release explains.
Juno captured the photograph shortly after midnight on December 11 with its aptly named JunoCam. The device is a visible-light camera that’s intended to snag shots of Jupiter’s poles and clouds. NASA says that the photographs aren’t especially helpful to scientists who are studying the planet (Juno has a host of specialized instruments for the heavy science), but the pictures are a stunning way to share Jupiter’s beauty with the public.
Juno has had a bit of a rough go so far in its mission to study the largest planet in the solar system. A series of technical issues have repeatedly delayed a burn that would get the spacecraft into a much quicker and closer 14-day orbit. Despite all the delays, NASA says Juno will still be able to complete its mission — they’d just rather be safe than sorry. So rest easy: there are probably going to be a lot more cool pictures like this one.