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Strange dark abyss spotted on Jupiter, but what is it?

Sunday, June 16th 2019, 1:55 pm - The Red Spot has creepy competition.

A stunning new photo from the Jupiter-orbiting spacecraft June makes it look like the planet might be watching us, watching it.

The image, snapped during Juno's latest flyby, shows a strange pitch-black vortex swirling amid one of Jupiter's jet streams.

nasa jupiter abyss vortex The Jupiter Abyss. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

While the famous Red Spot is known to be a massive hurricane-like storm, its dark cousin is more mysterious. The cloud formations surrounding the dark circle reveal that it's a vortex, but beyond that scientists aren't sure what the formation -- informally dubbed The Abyss -- is.

RELATED: Is Jupiter's Red Spot unravelling?

"Since dark features on Jupiter's atmosphere tend to run deeper than light features, the Abyss may really be the deep hole that it appears," says the team at Astronomy Picture of the Day, who featured the image on June 10, "but without more evidence that remains conjecture."

The Juno spacecraft captured the image from about 14,800 kilometres above Jupiter's cloud tops in late May as it made its 20th flyby of the planet.

SEE ALSO: Juno gives amazing 3D view of Jupiter's north pole

The Juno mission, which has sent hundreds of amazing images in its lifetime, was planned to end in 2018 but has been extended until 2021 with 15 additional flybys scheduled. JunoCam raw images, like the one of the Abyss (which was processed by Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran), are available to the public to access at the mission website.

Sources: Mission Juno | Astronomy Picture of the Day | NASA |


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