New NASA Photo: The Size of Jupiter Is Blowing My Mind

Just look. From NASA, with the caption and photo credit courtesy of them.

This latest image of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 25, 2020, was captured when the planet was 406 million miles from Earth. A unique and exciting detail of Hubble’s snapshot appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright, white, stretched-out storm traveling around the planet at 350 mph. Hubble shows that the Great Red Spot, rolling counterclockwise in the planet’s southern hemisphere, is plowing into the clouds ahead of it, forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons. Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, thought to hold potential ingredients for life, is visible to the left of the gas giant.
Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), and the OPAL team

Sometimes it feels like the world is falling apart. Sometimes it feels like 2020 is the worst year in my lifetime both personally and in the broader world. All of that may still hold true, but my goodness, if you can’t take five minutes to enjoy that crisp, stunning photo of Jupiter, what are we even doing? Life is a bounty of marvelous, wonderful things, and I’m only talking within its nature, much less the interpersonal human elements.

I marvel at that photo for a variety of reasons. For starters, that the photo even exists at all. It’s hard for my brain to conceptualize the fact that human beings became so advanced to not only become aware of the existence of other planets beyond our own, but then figured out how to create a telescope capable of capturing those other planets, and in such a crystal clear way.

As the caption says, Jupiter, at the moment of the capture, was 406 million miles from Earth. For some sort of context on how far that is, you’d have to go all the way around Earth twice to nearly match that distance. And yet, humans created a telescope powerful enough to get a picture of something that’s 406 million miles away from us. That’s profound to me.

Then as the caption notes, there’s a storm traveling across Jupiter, as noted by the big red splotch, or uh, the actual name for it, The Great Red Spot. NASA said that the storm is traveling at 350 mph. To put that number into context, the fastest hurricane ever recorded on Earth was Hurricane Patricia in 2015, which for one minute, sustained winds of 215 mph. For one minute. This is a storm traveling 135 mph faster, and oh … did I mention, THE STORM IS BIGGER THAN EARTH?!

The Earth is 7,917.5 miles wide, according to Google. This storm? It’s 10,159 miles wide. Jupiter is about 11 times the size of Earth, so it can hold quite a few Earths within it.

How do you even compute that? There’s a storm on another planet bigger than Earth itself moving at speeds unheard of on Earth. That’s horrifying and beautiful at the same time.

Also, the planet is simply gorgeous; the beautiful colors and topography of Jupiter, it almost makes it look like a painting, and is so different from our blue ball of a planet. Aside from probably dying instantly, what would it be like to stand on another planet? Apparently, doing so on Jupiter is literally impossible, as there is no “firm surface” on the planet like there is here, according to Universe Today. You would sink down and be “crushed by the intense pressure inside the planet.” Gravity is also more intense, so if according to them, you weighed 100 pounds on Earth, you’d weight 250 pounds on Jupiter.

Well, it would be neat for a moment!

Let me back up, though: THERE IS NO SURFACE?! I can’t compute how there’s not a surface.

Next to Jupiter is the moon Europa, which NASA suspects has liquid water under its icy surface, and hey, maybe there’s extraterrestrial life. Those common elements that make up the “ingredients of life” are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur, and are thought to be present on Europa at its forming, according to NASA. As if everything else about this photo wasn’t cool enough, we have the tease about LIFE teeming somewhere else beyond Earth.

The size and scope and possibilities of space is something I come back to to marvel at, and to marvel at how humans are capable of wrapping our arms and brains, ever so slightly, around it.

Humans can be cool, huh? And I will never stop being in awe of the world and universe around us. I hope you don’t either.

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