Neptune, Titan, Jupiter, and Pluto look gorgeous in these new photos

A good week for space photography

Neptune
Neptune as seen from the Very Large Telescope.ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP)

Astronomers released some incredible images of our Solar System last week—let’s take a peek at some of the highlights.

Neptune

Above is the clearest picture of Neptune ever taken from Earth. It's even better than similar pictures taken by the Hubble.

blurry and not blurry neptunes
Neptune as seen from the VLT with adaptive optics (left) and without (right).ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP)

The trick is adaptive optics, which use deformable mirrors (and sometimes lasers) to reduce blurring to the images caused by the presence of the atmosphere. Read more about how a similar system works here.

Titan
Titan
Six new views of Titan.NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Nantes/University of Arizona

The Saturn mission of our faithful explorer Cassini lasted over a decade and sent back incredible pictures and data. Though it was intentionally crashed into the surface of Saturn last September, its data is still changing our view of the solar system.

These images of Saturn's moon Titan were taken in the infrared. Cassini gathered pictures of the satellite for 13 years, and all that data has now been converted into these stunning views. According to a NASA press release these images "represent some of the clearest, most seamless-looking global views of the icy moon's surface produced so far."

Clouds of Jupiter
cloud on Jupiter
This cloud on Jupiter is ready for its close-up.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major

On July 15, the Juno spacecraft, currently in orbit around Jupiter, made a close flyby of the planet, and captured this stunning picture of high-altitude clouds forming in the planet's North North Temperate Belt (yes, two Norths) just below Jupiter's North Polar region.

Juno is giving us some incredible images of our largest planet. If can't wait for more, and you want even more pictures of Jupiter, check out our Jovian guessing game.

Pluto's true colors

Some pretty amazing images of Pluto awed the world when they were released back in 2015. But New Horizons—the spacecraft that took the images—had cameras that could see well beyond the spectrum of visual light available to us mere humans. The result was gorgeous pictures, but not pictures that matched what we'd see if we managed to fly all the way out there and gaze at Pluto with our own eyes. This new image corrects that, and allows us a glimpse of what Pluto might look like without false-color alterations.

Pluto
What Pluto might actually look like to human eyes.NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Alex Parker

Click here to see Pluto's moon Charon in true colors as well. If you're interested in learning more about the process, see this Twitter thread from planetary astronomer Alex Parker—who processed the photos—for more details on how he adjusted the colors to match what our eyes are capable of seeing.

New volcano on Io
io
A potential new volcano is circled on Io.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

Bonus picture! It's not as clear and stunning as the pictures above, but this red-hot image of Jupiter's moon Io also made the news this week. Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system, gushing lava in such vast and impressive amounts that Earth's eruptive summits look positively puny by comparison.

This week, researchers announced that they'd identified a potential new volcano on the moon, using infrared data collected last December by the Juno spacecraft.

ADVERTISEMENT