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These color maps of Jupiter were constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft on December 11 and 12, 2000, as the spacecraft neared Jupiter during its flyby of the giant planet. They are the most detailed global color maps of Jupiter ever produced; the smallest visible features are about 120 kilometers (75 miles) across.
The maps are composed of 36 images: a pair of images covering Jupiter's northern and southern hemispheres was acquired in two colors every hour for nine hours as Jupiter rotated beneath the spacecraft. Although the raw images are in just two colors, 750 nanometers (near-infrared) and 451 nanometers (blue), the map's colors are close to those the human eye would see when gazing at Jupiter.
The maps show a variety of colorful cloud features, including parallel reddish-brown and white bands, the Great Red Spot, multi-lobed chaotic regions, white ovals and many small vortices. Many clouds appear in streaks and waves due to continual stretching and folding by Jupiter's winds and turbulence. The bluish gray features along the top edge of the central bright band are equatorial "hot spots," meteorological systems such as the one entered by the Galileo probe. Small bright spots within the orange band north of the equator are lightning-bearing thunderstorms. The polar regions are less clearly visible because Cassini viewed them at an angle and through thicker atmospheric haze such as the whitish material in the south polar map.
Pixels in the rectangular map cover equal increments of planetocentric latitude and longitude, and extend to 180 degrees of latitude and 360 degrees of longitude. The round maps are polar stereographic projections that show the north or south pole in the center of the map and the equator at the edge.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.