An unexpected discovery put the scientists in a quite tricky situation at the outset: in a picture captured by NASA‘s Juno spacecraft, the planet Jupiter seemed to host a massive black hole on its surface.
The image was grabbed by NASA’s probe and improved by Kevin Gill, a citizen scientist. Jupiter’s superior hemisphere appeared to have an all dark and round shadow in the picture, taken on Juno’s 22nd close pass by of the Gas Giant on September the 11th, this year.
Solar Eclipses On Jupiter Are Similar To Those On Earth
At the outset, scientists wondered whether the black patch could be a black hole threatening to devour Jupiter in the unrelenting clutch of its insane gravity. Fortunately, the black shadow is the result of Jupiter’s moon Io transitioning directly in front of the Sun, NASA clarified.
Just like with the solar eclipses on our planet, there is a full solar eclipse on Jupiter as its moon flybys in front of the Sun, the space agency explained.
Such events happen quite often on the Gas Giant because it is a large planet with more than one moon. As per NASA, Jupiter has approximately 75 lunar satellites. Similarly to Saturn, the space agency’s 1979 Voyager spacecraft also found a dim notch of material encircling the planet.
Even so, dissimilar to the majority of the planets in the Solar System, the Sun never budges away from the planet’s equator. Jupiter’s axis is actually pretty low when compared to its orbit, which means the Sun frequently meets the Gas Planet’s moons. Therefore, dark patches like the one captured by Juno often appear on the planet’s obscure surface.
The exact same impact occurs on Earth during a total solar eclipse.
NASA explained that the shadow on the Gas Planet is approximately 2,200 miles, or 3,600 kilometers in diameter, about the same width as Io, but seems much wider relative to Jupiter. Io is a bit larger than Earth’s Moon, and it hosts the most active volcanoes, frequently captured spewing mountains of discharge way above its atmosphere.
All the raw images captured by Juno are published online in the JunoCam archive, on the mission’s official website.