NASA’s Juno mission sees a terrifying “face” on Jupiter

On September 7, 2023, during its 54th close flyby of Jupiter, NASA’s Juno mission captured this view of a region in the northern reaches of the giant planet known as Jet N7. The image shows turbulent clouds and storms at Jupiter’s terminal, the dividing line between the planet’s day and night sides. The low angle of sunlight highlights the complex landscape of features in this region, which scientists have studied to better understand the processes at play in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS, Vladimir Tarasov

During its 54th voyage, NASAIn Juno filmed a film ThursdayThe N7 region of the jet reveals turbulent clouds and the planet’s terminator. Processed by Vladimir Tarasov, the film intrigued scientists and showed pareidolia effects.

Juno’s stunning image of Jupiter’s northern hemisphere

On September 7, 2023, during its 54th close flyby of Jupiter, NASA’s Juno mission captured this view of a region in the northern reaches of the giant planet known as Jet N7. The image shows turbulent clouds and storms at Jupiter’s terminal, the dividing line between the planet’s day and night sides. The low angle of sunlight highlights the complex landscape of features in this region, which scientists have studied to better understand the processes at play in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Paretolia in Jupiter’s clouds

As is often the case with scenes of Juno, Jupiter’s clouds in this image lend themselves to pareidolia, the effect of which is to make the viewer perceive faces or other shapes in often random patterns.

Image Processing by Citizen Scientist

Citizen scientist Vladimir Tarasov created this image using raw data from the JunoGame instrument. At the time the original image was taken, the Juno spacecraft was about 4,800 miles (about 7,700 kilometers) north of Jupiter’s cloud tops at about 69 degrees latitude.

NASA's Juno mission on Jupiter

The image at the top of this article was cropped. This is the whole point of view. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS, Vladimir Tarasov

Overview of Paretolia

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon in which the mind perceives a familiar shape or image, often a face, in random or unrelated visual stimuli. This intriguing quirk of human cognition explains why people can see animal shapes in the clouds, detect a man’s face in the moon, or even see Jesus in a snack.

The human brain has a hard time recognizing faces; It is an evolutionary trait that has enabled humans to recognize and communicate with other humans. This ability to recognize faces is so deeply ingrained that when presented with incomplete or ambiguous visual data, our minds often fill in the gaps, leading to seeing faces that don’t exist.

However, pareidolia is not limited to faces. This can extend to hearing phantom sounds in random noise. For example, some may report hearing indistinct voices over the sound of a fan or seeing patterns in the uneven texture of tiles.

This phenomenon has been observed throughout history and has influenced many areas of culture, from religious views to the arts. Regardless of context, paretolia serves as a fascinating reminder of the brain’s powerful and sometimes deceptive pattern recognition abilities.

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