Jupiter Probe Turns Around and Peers Into the Callous Ether of Space

Since getting sucked into Jupiter’s orbit last year, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been careening around the gas giant in a trajectory that allows it to [capture images of the planet’s swirling, menacing cloud tops](( just 2,100 miles below. In this image, Juno looked the other way, using its Stellar Reference Unit star camera to look through Jupiter’s rings and into the great black void.

Unlike Saturn’s brilliant rings which were spotted 400 years ago, no one knew about Jupiter’s wispy rings until 1979, when the Voyager space probe passed by the planet on its way out of our solar system to fulfill its lonely destiny as a cosmic explorer. Scientists think that Jupiter’s delicate rings are collections of moon-dust ejected into space when asteroid chunks smashed into Jupiter’s rocky moons.

Just above the rings is the radiant star Betelgeuse, which to us Earthlings appears as the reddish star that comprises the shoulder of Orion (in the Orion constellation.) Betelgeuse’s ruddy glow reveals its status as a red supergiant star, which has grown bloated with age and is expected to collapse on itself in a fatal, explosive event, turning the star into a psychedelic cloud of cosmic dust — a nebula, from where new stars will form. Some scientists surmise that this has already occurred, but because Betelgeuse is over 600 light years away from us, evidence of the explosion has yet to arrive in our solar system. As is the case for every star we see, we’re looking back in time at Betelgeuse, 600 years ago.

In the bottom right are three bright, diagonally-aligned stars, which are the three stars that we see as Orion’s Belt.

And beyond that is an incalculable number of faintly glowing stars, many of which have their own gas-rich planets, perhaps similar to Jupiter.