Grey, heavily cratered, and peering out from the black of space, Ganymede looks a lot like our moon. But the icy rock is more than 400 million miles away – it’s the largest moon in the solar system, and it circles Jupiter.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been rocketing around Jupiter since 2016, but on Monday, it zipped past Ganymede, coming within 645 miles of the moon. No spacecraft had gotten that close in more than two decades – the last approach was NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 2000.
In just 25 minutes, Ganymede went from being a distant point of light from Juno’s vantage point to a looming, round disk, then back to a point of light. It was just enough time for the probe to snap five photos.
NASA released the first two images on Tuesday; they’re the most detailed snapshots ever captured of the gargantuan moon.
“This is the closest any spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation,” Scott Bolton, who leads the Juno spacecraft team, said in NASA’s press release. “We are going to take our time before we draw any scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this celestial wonder – the only moon in our solar system bigger than the planet Mercury.”
Scientists believe that Ganymede may host an ocean of salty water 500 miles beneath its icy shell – which would hold more water than Earth does. It’s also the only moon in the solar system with its own magnetic field, which creates an aurora at its poles. Scientists hope the Juno flyby will help them learn more about both Ganymede’s ice shell and its magnetic field.
The first Juno image, below, captures almost an entire side of the ice-encrusted moon. Each pixel covers about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer).
This image is just from the Juno camera’s green-light filter. In the coming days, NASA expects to receive more images from the spacecraft, including those captured with its red- and blue-light filters. That will allow the agency to create a colorful portrait of Ganymede.
Juno’s black-and-white navigation camera also snapped a photo, below, of Ganymede’s dark side.
It’s visible thanks to light scattered from Jupiter.
A set of images released Tuesday show the planet in infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. The combination reveals Jupiter’s characteristic Great Red Spot – a cyclonic storm large enough to engulf the Earth – in stunning detail. Also visible in the photos is the Great Red Spot’s smaller counterpart, aptly nicknamed Red Spot Jr. That storm, whose scientific name is Oval BA, appears to the bottom right of the Great Red Spot in the visible-light and ultraviolet images.
Astronomers were able to photograph Jupiter’s atmosphere in these different wavelengths of light by using both a camera on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and an infrared imager on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The images were first captured on January 11, 2017.
Such photos can help researchers glean new insight into the super-storms, hot spots, and cyclones that define the gas giant’s stormy atmosphere.
The Great Red Spot is riddled with holes
The infrared image of Jupiter shows that the cloud cover of the Great Red Spot is full of holes. Through these gaps, heat from the planet’s surface is leaking into the atmosphere.
In visible light, the holes look like swaths of different, darker clouds, but the infrared image confirmed that there aren’t any clouds in those darker patches. They’re just gaps in the giant storm.
“It’s kind of like a jack-o-lantern,” Michael Wong, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said last year.
Wong helped produce the new infrared image of Jupiter. He thinks the Great Red Spot’s mottled visage could be explained by swirling wind currents.
“The closest analog is eddies in the ocean,” he said in a release. “As the storm clouds spin, you can get little anomalies from these eddies that form streaks by just winding up.”
To create the infrared images, Wong’s team used a technique called “lucky imaging.” That’s when a ground telescope takes many short-exposure images of the same spot, and researchers then select the sharpest ones (which are generally taken in moments when Earth’s atmosphere was creating little interference). By stitching together these images of each region, the researchers crafted a portrait of the entire planet.
Keeping tabs on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot using different types of imaging may help solve the mystery of its shrinking. In the 1800s, the Great Red Spot was almost 25,000 miles across. Since then it’s shrunk by 60% – according to Wong’s team, the spot is currently only 10,000 miles wide.
Jupiter’s Red Spot Jr. formed in 2000, when three storms merged together. Although the region appears red in the visible-light image, that’s not always the case – when the spot first formed, it was white. Then it turned red several years later, and in the four years since Hubble took the newly released images, the red spot has changed back to white again.
Although Red Spot Jr. isn’t visible in the infrared-light view of Jupiter, four large hot spots near Jupiter’s equator do appear in the image. Like in the Great Red Spot, these bright patches are regions where heat from the planet below oozes into the atmosphere.
International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA, M.H. Wong (UC Berkeley) et al. Acknowledgments: M. Zamani
Another feature visible in the infrared image is a bright streak atop a darker patch in the planet’s northern hemisphere.
This band is likely a giant cyclone, or series of cyclones, nearly 45,000 miles wide.
Narrator: The best way to explore a new world is to land on it. That’s why humans have sent spacecraft to the Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon, Titan, and more.
But there are a few places in the solar system we will never understand as well as we’d like. One of them is Jupiter.
Jupiter is made of mostly hydrogen and helium gas. So, trying to land on it would be like trying to land on a cloud here on Earth. There’s no outer crust to break your fall on Jupiter. Just an endless stretch of atmosphere.
The big question, then, is: Could you fall through one end of Jupiter and out the other? It turns out, you wouldn’t even make it halfway. Here’s what would happen if you tried to land on Jupiter.
*It’s important to note that we feature the Lunar Lander for the first half of the descent. In reality, the Lunar Lander is relatively delicate compared to, say, NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Therefore, the Lunar Lander would not be used for a mission to land on any world that contains an atmosphere, including Jupiter. However, any spacecraft, no matter how robust, would not survive for long in Jupiter, so the Lunar Lander is as good of a choice as any for this hypothetical scenario.
First things first, Jupiter’s atmosphere has no oxygen. So make sure you bring plenty with you to breathe. The next problem is the scorching temperatures. So pack an air conditioner. Now, you’re ready for a journey of epic proportions.
For scale, here’s how many Earths you could stack from Jupiter’s center. As you enter the top of the atmosphere, you’re be traveling at 110,000 mph under the pull of Jupiter’s gravity.
But brace yourself. You’ll quickly hit the denser atmosphere below, which will hit you like a wall. It won’t be enough to stop you, though.
After about 3 minutes you’ll reach the cloud tops 155 miles down. Here, you’ll experience the full brunt of Jupiter’s rotation. Jupiter is the fastest rotating planet in our solar system. One day lasts about 9.5 Earth hours. This creates powerful winds that can whip around the planet at more than 300 mph.
About 75 miles below the clouds, you reach the limit of human exploration. The Galileo probe made it this far when it dove into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995. It only lasted 58 minutes before losing contact and was eventually destroyed by the crushing pressures.
Down here, the pressure is nearly 100 times what it is at Earth’s surface. And you won’t be able to see anything, so you’ll have to rely on instruments to explore your surroundings.
By 430 miles down, the pressure is 1,150 times higher. You might survive down here if you were in a spacecraft built like the Trieste submarine – the deepest diving submarine on Earth. Any deeper and the pressure and temperature will be too great for a spacecraft to endure.
However, let’s say you could find a way to descend even farther. You will uncover some of Jupiter’s grandest mysteries. But, sadly, you’ll have no way to tell anyone. Jupiter’s deep atmosphere absorbs radio waves, so you’ll be shut off from the outside world- unable to communicate.
Once you’ve reached 2,500 miles down, the temperature is 6,100 ºF. That’s hot enough to melt tungsten, the metal with the highest melting point in the Universe. At this point, you will have been falling for at least 12 hours. And you won’t even be halfway through.
At 13,000 miles down, you reach Jupiter’s innermost layer. Here the pressure is 2 million times stronger than at Earth’s surface. And the temperature is hotter than the surface of the sun. These conditions are so extreme they change the chemistry of the hydrogen around you. Hydrogen molecules are forced so close together that their electrons break lose, forming an unusual substance called metallic hydrogen. Metallic hydrogen is highly reflective. So, if you tried using lights to see down here it would be impossible.
And it’s as dense as a rock. So, as you travel deeper, the buoyancy force from the metallic hydrogen counteracts gravity’s downward pull. Eventually, that buoyancy will shoot you back up until gravity pulls you back down, sort of like a yo-yo. And when those two forces equal, you’ll be left free-floating in mid-Jupiter, unable to move up or down, and no way to escape!
Suffice it say, trying to land on Jupiter is a bad idea. We may never see what’s beneath those majestic clouds. But we can still study and admire this mysterious planet from afar.
A special thanks to Kunio Sayanagi at Hampton University, for his help with this video.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in February 2018.
Even the biggest names in asset management can get it wrong and BestInvest just called out some of the top losers.
In its twice-yearly ‘Spot the Dog’ report, the online investment service names and shames the top underperforming funds and firms, and Invesco has topped the list for the sixth time in a row.
“The top slot in Spot the Dog continues to be held by Invesco with 11 funds totalling £9.2 billion. Four of these funds are Tibetan Mastiff-sized beasts,” the report said.
However, the report, which doesn’t win any popularity contest among fund managers, does note that Invesco’s number of funds that made the list has fallen this time.
What is a ‘dog fund’?
So how does BestInvest identify the funds that fall into this somewhat cruel category using two filters?
First, it filters by fund universe to identify “those that have failed to beat the benchmark over three consecutive 12-month periods,” the report said.
The benchmark chosen by BestInvest is determined by the sector the fund, designating one that operates in an index that “represents the overall movements in the market that the fund operates in,” it said.
This highlights those that have consistently underperformed and allows the research to remove those that “may simply have had a short run of bad luck,” it added.
Secondly, the funds must have underperformed the benchmark by 5% or more over the entire three-year period of analysis.
The Kennel Club
These are the firms with the most assets under management, which made the list because of their “dog funds”:
For the sixth time running, Invesco has landed the top “dog” spot, with 11 funds making the list, worth £9.2 billion in total. Admittedly, this is down from 13 funds valued at £11.4 billion from the last report.
Two of the firm’s funds were repeat offenders on the list: Invesco’s UK Equity High Income and UK Equity Income funds, delivering -21% and -19% respectively over a three year period compared to the benchmark.
But, in the firm’s defence these funds were only recently handed to new managers, “who are now tasked with turning them around,” the report said.
Moreover, Invesco has gone through a broad shakeup over the last year after the appointment of a new chief investment officer, Stephanie Butcher.
“This is clearly a work in progress,” the report added.
The UK-based firm Jupiter leapt up the rankings from ninth to second place in this report following its July 2020 acquisition of Merian Global Investors, making it “rescue home for two sizeable beasts,” the note said
The now enlarged group oversees 8 “dog funds”, totalling £4.1 billion of assets. The biggest of these is the Merian North American Equity fund, which has seen a -14% return in the last three years compared to the benchmark.
3. St. James Place
St James’s Place’s (SJP) in-house fund range has frequently “lurked near the top spot in the hall of shame” and sits in third position with four funds totalling £4 billion, the report said.
The number of SJP funds that made this edition has halved since the last with the SJP UK High Income fund, previously managed by fallen star Neil Woodford, escaping the shaming.
The SJP Global Smaller Companies fund was one of this edition’s biggest losers in the Global sector, coming fifth in that particular list and trailing the benchmark by -32%.
Schroders took this edition’s fourth place after it number of funds to make the list rose to 11, with an increase of £4 billion in asset.
Three of the Schroder’s included are managed by its QEP team, the report highlight, who use a “systematic, data driven investment process.”
Both the Schroder European Recovery and Global Recovery funds – which target undervalued companies – made the list, underperforming the benchmark -22% and -33% respectively. These, and the firm’s income funds investing in the US, Europe and globally, struggled in the 2020 environment where ‘growth’ stocks significantly outperformed.
These growth sectors include technology and communications services which have been the biggest ‘COVID-winners’, like video-conferencing software Zoom and EV company Tesla.
Therefore, growth strategies largely left funds targeting undervalued companies or dividend-generating businesses lagging in the dust during 2020.
However, if the global economy recovers as most banks are forecasting, these ‘recovery’ or ‘value’ plays could catch-up, making significant gains.
Of note, the report excluded the £3.3 billion ‘dog fund’ managed by the firm in its joint venture with Lloyds Bank.
5. JPMorgan Asset Management
JPMorgan’s inclusion in the top five came down solely due to the JP Morgan US Equity Income fund with its huge £3.2 billion in AUM, which fell -27% below the benchmark, the report said.
Unfortunately for JPMAM, the fund has been underweight technology stocks in a period when companies like FAANG and tech cult names like Tesla have been market leaders, as many tech companies do not pay dividends.
But, like Schroders, this could turn around if value sectors like Banks and energy – which are the main dividend payers – catch up on any economic recovery.
Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn are currently clustering together in the night sky.
Monday is the final night that the three planets will be lined up and visible at twilight. They appeared the closest they’d been in more than two decades on Sunday, forming an equilateral triangle.
“This shape is just a blip in time,” Amy Oliver, a spokeswoman for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told the Boston Globe. “We won’t see it exactly like this ever again, since it probably isn’t going to happen again in this exact same way – at least not in your lifetime.”
An astronomical event in which celestial bodies align like this is called a conjunction. A triple alignment like this is known as a planetary trio.
If you hold your palm up to the sky and all three planets cluster within a circle that fits in the space between your ring finger and your pointer finger, that’s a trio.
Here’s how to see the planetary trio before it’s gone.
Head out at twilight, and bring binoculars
On Monday, head out at twilight, between half an hour and 45 minutes after sunset. Look to the southwestern sky. The clearer the sky is, and the father from city lights you are, the easier it will be to see the conjunction.
Jupiter will look brightest to the naked eye (it’s about 10 times bright than Saturn), followed by Mercury, then Saturn.
Since Saturn is so dim, it may not be distinguishable from the sun’s afterglow with the naked eye. So the best way to spot the planetary triangle is to focus your eyes on Jupiter, which will be near the top, then point a pair of binoculars at it. Mercury and Saturn should appear in the same binocular field as Jupiter, according to EarthSky.
After Monday, Jupiter and Saturn will dip below the horizon and no longer be visible, while Mercury will continue rising in the sky night after night – moving steadily away from the other two planets.
Although the three worlds seem to almost touch during the planetary trio, Jupiter and Saturn are actually separated by almost five times the distance between Earth and the sun. Mercury and Saturn are separated by nearly twice that distance.
The last time these 3 planets aligned so closely was in 2000