The three shadows appear to disturb the marbled surface of Jupiter in the planet’s upper hemisphere. NASA’s photo also portrays the Gas Giant in an unusual array of pastel-like hues of green, blue and pink. The colours are caused by the Hubble telescope photographing Jupiter in infrared wavelengths. But what about the black hole shadows?
The three dark discs in the planet’s upper half are the result of three solar eclipses simultaneously unfolding on Jupiter.
According to NASA, the shadows are the solar eclipses of Jupiter’s largest moons Io, Ganymede and Callisto.
Ganymede’s shadow sits on the far left edge, followed by Io’s shadow just to the right.
You can also see Io’s shadow on the far right edge of the Gas Giant.
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If you watched the event from Jupiter, you would see the three moons pass directly in front of the Sun.
Here on Earth, our Moon is just big enough to completely blot out the Sun for minutes at a time during a total eclipse.
The Earth, however, only has one lunar companion and Jupiter is home to an incredible total of 79 known moons.
But even with so many satellites, NASA said the appearance of three eclipses at once is an incredibly rare occurrence.
The US space agency said: “Why is this triple eclipse so unique? Io, Ganymede, and Callisto orbit Jupiter at different rates.
“Their shadows likewise cross Jupiter’s face at different rates. For example, the outermost moon Callisto orbits the slowest of the three moons.
Io, Ganymede, and Callisto orbit Jupiter at different rates
“Callisto’s shadow moves across the planet once for every 20 shadow crossings of Io.
“Add the crossing rate of Ganymede’s shadow and the possibility of a triple eclipse becomes even more rare.”
NASA’s Hubble had the opportunity to snap this historic moment 15 years ago in 2004.
But what made the image “even more special” was the appearance of two Jovian moons in the frame.
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The intense blue dot in the upper right half of Jupiter is the moon Ganymede.
The moon appears blue thanks to the absorption of water ice on the moon’s surface.
To left and down from Ganymede you can see a pale white dot – the moon Io.
NASA said: “The white colour of Io is from light reflected off bright sulfur compounds on that moon’s surface.”
The third Jovian moon casting its shadow, Callisto, is unfortunately out of the frame to the right.
Quick facts about the planet Jupiter:
1. Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun but it is also the largest in the solar system.
2. Jupiter’s marbled atmosphere is made from clouds of water, hydrogen, ammonia and helium.
3. The Gas Giant is about 11 times bigger than our home planet.
4. On average, Jupiter orbits the Sun from a distance of 483,638,564 miles.
5. Jupiter weighs twice as much as all of the other planets in the system combined.
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