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These Jupiter photographs are part of a set taken by Voyager 1 on December 10 and 11, 1978 from a distance of 83 million km (52 million miles) or more than half the distance from the Earth to the sun. At this range, Voyager 1 is able to record more detail on the giant planet than the very best ground-based telescopes. The highest resolution ever obtained on the Jovian disk was recorded by Pioneer 11 four years ago. Voyager, however, has longer focal-length optics than Pioneer, and while nearly three months from encounter (~ March 1979) was able to achieve higher resolution than that obtained by Pioneer only 24 hours from its encounter on 3 December 1974.
Jupiter's colorful and turbulent atmosphere is evident in these photographs. The entire visible surface of the planet is made up of multiple layers of clouds, composed primarily of ammonia ice crystals colored by small amounts of materials of unknown composition. The Great Red Spot, seen to the lower left of 2 and lower right of 3, is now recovering from a period of relative inconspicuousness. An atmospheric system larger than the Earth and more than 100 years old, the Great Red Spot remains a mystery and a challenge to Voyager instruments. A bright convective cloud (center of and right of center in 4) displays a plume which has been swept westward (to the left) by local currents in the planet's equatorial wind system.
Below and to the left and right of the Great Red Spot are a pair of white oval clouds; a third can be seen in 1. All three were formed almost 40 years ago and are the second oldest class of discrete features identified in the Jovian atmosphere.
Each of the pictures was produced from blue, green, and orange originals in JPL's Image Processing Laboratory.
The Voyager Project is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.