Few countries in history have experienced as sudden a transformation as Saudi Arabia. Until the founding of the modern state by the Saud family in the early 20th century, the vast Arabian Peninsula was inhabited mainly by nomadic groups living a traditional lifestyle that hadn’t changed much in thousands of years. The discovery and exploitation of oil brought an unprecedented influx of wealth that, almost overnight, catapulted the country into the top echelon of the world’s economies. That affluence, combined with traditional values, has led to some of the country’s most compelling apparent paradoxes.

“Development happened so fast that they haven’t really had a chance to keep up with it the way other societies have,” says Peter Bogaczewicz a Canadian architect and photographer who has lived in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh for the past five years. Examples of the country’s mixture of tradition and modernity are everywhere in Bogaczewicz’s new book, including its title: Kingdom of Sand and Cement. Bogaczewicz has spent the past half-decade traveling the country, initially out of a desire to document historic sites threatened by the rapid pace of development. During that time, he photographed abandoned villages disappearing back into the desert as well as 10,000-year-old petroglyphs.

“The petroglyphs are just these rocks at the side of the road,” he says. “You can drive off the highway and a couple hundred meters away you’re faced with this amazing scene. Anywhere else you’d have a museum built around it. Here, there were just a few people scratching their names into the side.” As part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s effort to promote Saudi Arabian tourism, the country is now working to preserve some historic sites. But countless others—including some documented in Bogaczewicz’s book—have already been destroyed in the country’s rush to modernize.

Bogaczewicz got the rare opportunity to photograph the Kaaba at the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Peter Bogaczewicz

In other ways, though, Saudis manage to hold onto their cultural past. On weekends, many young men drive their cars out to the desert to go off-roading, slaloming down the sides of sand dunes as spectators watch. Another of Bogaczewicz’s photographs captures a Saudi family having a picnic under a highway overpass, much as their bedouin ancestors might have stopped their caravansary by a desert wadi to have a meal. And, of course, Islam remains central to Saudi identity. Bogaczewicz even got the opportunity to photograph Mecca’s Great Mosque. “It was a little nerve-racking at the time, but I realized it was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says.


Titan is Saturn’s largest and weirdest moon. In fact, it’s more like a planet: Titan is the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere, and it has a gravity that is similar to Earth’s. It even has lakes and rivers—except on Titan, the “waterways” are actually liquid methane and ethane (liquid because the surface is very cold, minus-291 degrees Fahrenheit).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Titan is that organic compounds like hydrocarbons exist there, which means the moon contains materials that could make up life. Any life-form that might exist on Titan, though, would likely look like nothing we can imagine. To date, only one spacecraft has ever been near this special moon, and that is NASA’s Cassini mission, which ended in September 2017.

In 2024, NASA will send a mission to Titan called Dragonfly. This dual quadcopter will descend onto the moon’s surface and fly around in search of evidence of habitability.

In 2015, Cassini used one of its infrared instruments to peer through Titan’s thick atmosphere and take a gander at the surface. The darker regions are dunes, just like we have here on Earth and on Mars. And the bright areas are regions with liquid lakes surrounded by rocky material.Photograph: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho
Cassini burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere two years ago, but researchers are still processing the data it sent back. Last week, NASA revealed the first geological map of the surface of Titan. The purple areas align with the previous photo—the areas with dunes. The blue indicates lakes, and the sweeping teal areas are all flat, open plains.Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
Here we see a close up of one of Titan’s dunes, called Shangri-la. Each dark line is a sand dune, and they worm around the landscape like a wood pattern. The brighter spots in this photo are mountains and cliffs. When the wind blows, it picks up the sand and moves it through these canyons, resulting in these intricate patterns.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI
The photos Cassini sent back during its 13 years at Saturn are so stunning, they can make this already beautiful planet seem like something out of fairy tales. Here we see Titan floating next to Saturn and its rings. This edge-on view gives us some perspective not only of how large Saturn is, but also how thin its rings are.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This sliver of Titan’s surface is called Labyrinth terrain. While you won’t find David Bowie here, what you will see are remnants of the surface that have been cut away over time by rivers of liquid methane. Scientists believe the darker area on the left may have been formed by methane rain, slowly morphing the surface.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI
On September 15, 2017, before Cassini set a death course into Saturn, it took one last photo of Titan. This close-up pic is not out of focus—that is simply how hazy and thick Titan’s atmosphere is. The spacecraft gave us the first-ever view of this alien yet tantalizingly interesting world, and it discovered enough to warrant an entire mission to go back to this one single moon.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Make it your mission to see the rest of WIRED’s collection of space photos here.

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At sunset in winter in Spain, thousands of starlings gather in enormous flocks, named murmurations for the low fluttering thunder of their wings. The birds move in astounding unison, each mimicking its six or seven of their nearest neighbors as they whirl across the sky.

It’s breathtaking, sure. But add a hungry hawk or falcon, and your jaw will drop. When the raptor swoops in to attack, its prey bolts in the opposite direction, triggering what scientists call “waves of agitation” that pulse through the flock at speeds surpassing 50 miles per hour.

Photograph: Xavi Bou
Photograph: Xavi Bou

“The falcon is shaping this great living sculpture that is the starling cloud,” says Xavi Bou, a Catalonian photographer whose dazzling series Ornitographies visualizes the patterns birds make through the air. His images condense several seconds of movement into a single frame to better capture their flight—and fight.

“It’s maybe the most complex movement that I could show in bird flights,” he adds.

Bou’s unique focus (previously covered by WIRED) sets him apart from other bird photographers, who are often more interested in their subject’s plumage or wingspans. Since he only cares about their trajectory through the air, Bou is free to document urban birds like starlings that look more ordinary—though their aeronautics are anything but.

Spain is home to millions of spotless starlings (Sturnus unicolor), and also hosts common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) from Central and Northern Europe in the fall. When the birds gather there, they tend to flock in mixed murmurations, likely for safety. “The bigger the flock, the less likely that ‘you’ will be taken,” says ornithologist Ernest Garcia.

Photograph: Xavi Bou
Photograph: Xavi Bou

The photographer captured his first big flock back in 2011, but it took Bou until last December to find another one as big. The birds were roosting in a marsh in the Ebro Delta, a 79,000-acre wetland a couple hours south of his hometown Barcelona. Each day they fed in nearby fields and returned to sleep in the reeds at night, inevitably drawing the unwanted attention of a falcon looking to hunt.

Bou filmed their elaborate aerial stunts over several evenings, capturing 60 frames per second with a 4K video camera to produce 1 terabyte of imagery. Later, he split the footage into clips, each between five and 20 seconds long and containing 300 to 1,200 frames. He layered those in Photoshop to produce the final images. The result is wonderfully impressionistic, reminding Bou of “energetic strokes produced by charcoal or ink in the air.”

After being in the Ebro Delta a couple months, the starlings departed for a park further north. If they return next year, Bou will be waiting—and likely, so will the falcon.

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When the US Air Force launched the F-16 Fighting Falcon in 1979, it had something no other military jet did: a computer. Four, actually. Their electrical signals commanded the aircraft instead of gears and pulleys, ushering aerial combat into the digital era. Now, after fighting in the Gulf and Iraq wars, some of these 49-foot supersonic jets are speeding toward an autonomous future. Believe it or not—we don’t blame you for thinking the buttons in this cockpit couldn’t belong to a droid—they’ve been retooled and given (short) new lives as drones.

Colonel Steven Boatright, commander of the Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, who’s flown Falcons for 25 years, says F-16s are perfect for dronification, because their computer systems make them easy to modify. The Air Force began converting the craft into QF-16s (the Q designating drones) in 2010. This year, up to 32 will fly over the Gulf of Mexico as elusive moving targets until they’re sacrificed to missiles and guided bombs, helping Boatright’s unit figure out how those missiles and bombs the government wants to buy actually work in stress tests.

To get these jets into flying, and dying, shape, Air Force engineers resurrect old F-16s from a 2,600-acre boneyard in Arizona. Then Boeing rigs them with $1.9 million in Drone Peculiar Equipment, including an automatic flight system that triggers takeoffs and landings at the press of a button. Soon they’re condemned to Tyndall’s “death row” runway. They perform elaborate maneuvers (barrel rolls, S turns), mimicking what enemies might do in battle, until they’re shot down and sink to the bottom of the ocean, the wreckage reincarnated as a reeflike hangout for sharks and barracudas. (Ground control can also blow up any erratic drone by remotely detonating the plane’s AIM-9 warhead.) The boneyard has enough F-16s to keep Boatright busy for the next decade, and maybe even fuel a robot war. In March, Air Force assistant secretary Will Roper cited QF-16s as a potential host for a machine learning program called Skyborg. That AI aims to turn drones into wingmen capable of fighting and hurling bombs alongside humans piloting the most advanced stealth aircraft by 2023.

LAURA MALLONEE (@LauraMallonee) writes about photography for WIRED.

This article appears in the December issue. Subscribe now.

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Of all the planets in our solar system, Mercury might be the most underrated. It doesn’t have fancy swirling clouds or rings or plumes. It doesn’t even have an atmosphere. This little rocky body does have a history of volcanism, though, and even has water ice in its craters. Mercury is also locked into a special resonance with Jupiter (think of it like a billion year old dance partner), and there’s a chance many millions of years from now, that Mercury will lose its balance and get flung out of the solar system and maybe take Mars out on its way.

Just this week, our innermost planet got its moment of glory, when it executed a rare transit, passing in front of the sun in just the right alignment so people on Earth could view it. It won’t transit again until 2032. Only two spacecraft have ever visited l’il Mercury: Mariner 10 in 1974 and 1975 and NASA’s Messenger mission which orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015 when it was deorbited and crashed into the surface. This week we’re going to get a bit more familiar with the solar system’s innermost world.

If you take a look at the bottom left corner of this image of our sun, you’ll see a tiny black dot. Say hello to Mercury! On Monday, November 11, it began to cross between earth and the sun for the first time in several years. (Sure it looks especially small here but everything looks tiny next to the sun.)Photograph: Bill Ingalls/NASA
When NASA’s MESSENGER mission was in orbit around Mercury, it took photos of the planet in unprecedented detail, including this photo of the rim of the Rembrant basin. At 445 miles across, Rembrant is the largest basin on the surface, and that long seam running down the center of the image is a feature of plate tectonics.NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
The bright crater at the top of the image is called Dominici crater. Whatever struck the surface hit it hard enough to send ejecta material out across the planet, revealing the volcanic remnants and lighter material below. This entire basin has been filled in by lava from volcanoes, so meteorite strikes like these that stir up dirt and rocks can help scientists get some clues about what sorts of materials are below the surface.NASA Goddard
This false color image of the Caloris basin shows old lava in orange and material that has been stirred up by meteorite strikes in deeper purples. Scientists on the MESSENGER team planned this photo for when the sun and the spacecraft were directly overhead. Talk about using a natural light source to get your shot: The brightness of the sun meant that the instruments and camera on MESSENGER were able to collect clear, detailed data.NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
This is MESSENGER, our spacecraft du jour. The planet Mercury is named after the Greek messenger god, but NASA rarely does anything that is not also an acronym. MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging. During its four years in orbit around Mercury not only did MESSENGER discover evidence of ancient volcanism on Mercury, but it found water ice in the craters as well.KSC

While you wait for the next Mercury transit, take a look at the rest of the collection of space photos here.

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Reuben Wu has photographed some of the world’s most remote and extreme places: Chile’s Atacama Desert, the Bisti Badlands of New Mexico, the Arctic tundra of Norway, Peru’s Pastoruri glacier. But few locations compare to the site of his latest project, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni. Stretching across more than 4,000 square miles of South America’s Altiplano (high plain), Salar de Uyuni (literally, the salts of Uyuni, the nearest town) is the world’s largest salt flat, a nearly featureless white landscape left behind by the evaporation of prehistoric lakes.

During the rainy season, the flats are submerged in 6 to 20 inches of perfectly still water, turning the shallow lake into the world’s largest mirror. In the dry season, when Wu visited, the salt crystals dry into an intricate latticework of tile-like polygons stretching away to the horizon in every direction. “I was really taken by this composition of pure horizon,” Wu says. “It’s just the sky and the landscape.”

Shooting the salt flats was the culmination of a week-long Bolivian road trip Wu and two companions took last July. Between the freezing nighttime temperatures, high altitudes (the Altiplano averages 12,000 feet above sea level), and long drives, the team got little sleep. “We were cold, we were light-headed, and doing anything physical was very hard,” Wu recalls. “There were times when I really struggled.”

But the hardships paid off when the crew finally reached the salt flats. Because it was the dry season, most of the Salar de Uyuni looked like a geometrically patterned moonscape. Still, Wu was lucky enough to find a standing puddle large enough to capture the rainy-season mirror effect, too. In addition to more traditional landscape photography, Wu created several of his signature aeroglyphs—glowing geometric shapes that float mysteriously in the sky. Wu draws the aeroglyphs by piloting LED-equipped drones in precise patterns while keeping his shutter open to create a long exposure.

Over the course of the road trip Wu documented a variety of Bolivian landscapes ranging from sandy deserts to rocky palisades, but the Salar de Uyuni emerged as the highlight. “If it were in the US, it would be swarming with tourists,” he says. “Instead, we had the whole thing to ourselves except for the occasional farmer and a cow.” The salt flats are rich in deposits of lithium, a key element in smartphone and electric car batteries, but lithium mining operations are still in their infancy thanks to the region’s inaccessibility and the reluctance of recently ousted president Evo Morales to greenlight foreign investment.

Throughout the trip, Wu used a Phase One XT, a compact medium-format digital camera that allowed him to take ultrahigh-resolution images on the go. Back in his studio, he used software to tinker with the images until arriving at the final product. Wu thinks of photography as “painting with light” and doesn’t fetishize authenticity. “For me, everything’s a tool,” he says. “The camera’s a tool, the computer’s a tool. Just so long as the technology and the tools don’t overwhelm the vision.”

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Forecasting the future was the mandate during last week’s WIRED25, our second annual ideas festival. Onstage, tech executives and scientists hashed out plans for a better tomorrow, while offstage attendees discussed what those days ahead could look like. Instagram’s chief product officer told the audience it might be a good idea to stop obsessing over how many likes other people get, while scientists from Memphis Meats detailed ways people can be better stewards to the planet by eating meat grown in a laboratory from cells. Alongside these big ideas were also small moments of creativity, like young minds molding slime, building paper airplanes, and workshopping their own science-fiction worlds. When she wasn’t making portraits of the event’s luminaries, photographer Dina Litovsky roamed the Commonwealth Club and captured some of the moments that may have inspired budding geniuses to unlock the next future-bending idea. See what she saw below.

Levi Draheim, Kelsey Juliana, and Vic Barrett are three of the youth plaintiffs suing the US government for perpetuating climate change.Photograph: Dina Litovsky
Earth’s mightiest defenders both onscreen and off: Captain America (Chris Evans, right) meets Kelsey Juliana, Levi Draheim, and Vic BarrettPhotograph: Dina Litovsky
WIRED’s editor in chief Nicholas Thompson. Read his manifesto on how we can improve tech.Photograph: Dina Litovsky
What looks like a normal file cabinet actually contains American datasets in which black people are either under- or overrepresented.Photograph: Dina Litovsky
Do you like the scent on one of these fabric swatches? According to this experiment’s designers, that may mean you’d be a good match with the person who wore the shirt it came from.Photograph: Dina Litovsky
Back-to-back-to-back Hugo Award-winning author N.K. Jemisin led attendees through a workshop on how to build literary worlds.Photograph: Dina Litovsky
The sky’s the limit when it’s John M. Collins, better known as The Paper Airplane Guy, giving you tips on how to crease and tuck your creations.Photograph: Dina Litovsky
Saturday’s slime workshop proved popular with the younger set…Photograph: Dina Litovsky
… but not so much with the TSA agents who found this goo in carry-ons afterwards.Photograph: Dina Litovsky
Don’t let parents and screen-time limits hold you back, kid. Look close, it’s the future.Photograph: Dina Litovsky

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Sometime in the next year or two China will likely surpass the United States as the world’s biggest movie market. With a population of 1.4 billion, China already has more movie screens and sells more tickets than any other country. This year, it’s projected to generate $11.05 billion in revenue compared to America’s $12.11 billion. Although the pace has slowed in recent years, China’s box office receipts grew by an average of 35 percent a year over the past decade.This has given the country’s Communist Party leaders extraordinary clout with Hollywood studios eager to get their films into the lucrative but tightly censored Chinese market.

But because of strict limits on foreign film imports, domestic movies still dominate Chinese cinemas; in 2018, 398 Chinese pictures were released in theaters compared to 118 foreign films. Shooting that many films requires a lot of movie studios, so China’s largely state-controlled film industry has been on a building spree for the past couple decades. Hengdian World Studios, built in the 1990s on farmland in China’s southeastern Zhejiang Province, claims to be the world’s largest outdoor film studio and features full-scale replicas of the Forbidden City and Beijing’s Old Summer Palace, along with dozens of palaces, gardens, and streetscapes.

Hengdian is just one of the Chinese mega-studios documented by Washington, DC-based photographer Mark Parascandola for his new book, Once Upon a Time in Shanghai. The project is something of a sequel to Parascandola’s 2012 series Once Upon a Time in Almeria, in which the photographer explored abandoned Spanish movie sets from golden-age Hollywood classics like Cleopatra and Lawrence of Arabia. Such over-the-top historical epics have largely gone out of fashion in America, but they’re still massively popular in China, where studios churn out hundreds of historical films every year. “They’re on a scale far bigger than anything you’d see in Hollywood these days,” Parascandola says.

Chinese movie studios favor historical themes in part out of self-censorship. It’s easier to avoid controversial subjects in a movie set during the Ming Dynasty or during moments of national pride like the resistance to Japanese occupation in the 1930s. “Setting a film in the past is a way to tell a story without involving current political issues,” Parascandola explains. “At the same time, history is itself censored to a degree—you don’t see many films about the Cultural Revolution, for instance.”

Because so many films and television shows are made about the same historical periods, studios are willing to spend the money to build high-quality sets that can be used again and again, as with the full-scale Forbidden City replica at Hengdian World Studios or the hyper-realistic World War II-era Shanghai streets at Shanghai Film Park. “They’re real buildings, not just plywood facades,” Parascandola says. The sets are so impressive that they draw paying tourists, which is how Parascandola gained access to many of them. Some couples even shoot their wedding photos on the sets.

While making the series, Parascandola immersed himself in contemporary Chinese cinema, which he found more interesting than he imagined, despite the censorship. “There’s this fascinating world of Chinese movies out there that we really don’t get to learn much about in the US,” Parascandola says. “There are some really great films being made.”

Reversing the longtime trend of Hollywood sending its hits overseas, top Chinese movies are increasingly being screened in American cinemas and showing up on American streaming services. Earlier this year, the sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth, the second-highest-grossing film in Chinese box office history, got a limited American theatrical release; it’s now available on Netflix. It got mixed reviews from American critics, but its arrival in the States could be sign of things to come. Hey, something’s gotta compete with Star Wars, right?

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Less than two miles from Iceland’s Reykjavik airport sits a nondescript metal building as monolithic and drab as a commercial poultry barn. There’s a deafening racket inside, too, but it doesn’t come from clucking chickens. Instead, tens of thousands of whirring GPUs perform the complex, exhaustive calculations needed to verify cryptocurrency transactions and add them to the public record, otherwise known as the blockchain. Hundreds of thousands of fans blast cold air to keep the machines from overheating, aided by six giant ceiling turbines that spin with the collective force of 360 washing machines.

The facility, called Enigma and established by Genesis Mining in 2014, is easily the loudest environment that British photographer Lisa Barnard has ever documented. She visited two years ago while shooting her project Bitcoin. “The biggest thing I remember was just the noise and the flashing lights and wiring,” Barnard says. “It was like being inside a computer.”

The high-tech barn seems worlds away from the geysers, waterfalls, and lagoons that inspire 2.3 million tourists each year (not to mention a few Björk lyrics), but it’s as much a product of Iceland’s unique geology as any of those. The Nordic island country straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet, molding a volcanic terrain webbed by glacial rivers and studded with gemstone-aquamarine lakes. The abundant water and underground heat is harnessed by hydroelectric dams and geothermal power stations to produce cheap, green electricity that facilitates the energy-intensive process of confirming cryptocurrency transactions—called mining, since miners are rewarded for their efforts with newly minted and extremely volatile “coins.” The fact temperatures rarely top 57 degrees Fahrenheit also helps.

It wasn’t long after Bitcoin‘s creation on January 3, 2009 that cryptocurrency companies began moving to Iceland. In 2016, large data centers accounted for nearly 1 percent of its GDP, with cryptocurrency mining operations making up 90 percent of those. They now use more electricity than all of Iceland’s homes combined, with electric bills at Enigma running more than $1 million per month. But however green the energy, miners still can’t escape a dilemma as old as picks and shovels: how to extract resources without marring the landscape. According to local experts cited by The Wall Street Journal, keeping up with demand for electricity requires building more dams and power stations that could alter Iceland’s unique, sensitive environment.

That tension intrigues Barnard. She became interested in cryptocurrencies while working on her new book The Canary and the Hammer, a visual exploration of gold. It piqued her interest in digital “gold” that isn’t controlled by a central bank, leading her from Bitcoin meet-ups in Japan, the first country to officially recognize cryptocurrencies, to data centers in Iceland, where they’re mined on an industrial scale. “I was interested in this idea of it being an equitable currency,” Barnard says, “and yet it has the potential to be very destructive as far as the land is concerned.”

So, after photographing Enigma, she also ventured out to Svartsengi geothermal power station (which supplies electricity to crypto-miners and water to the Insta-famous Blue Lagoon) and other sites of thermal activity. Standing before ethereal, bubbling pools, she felt an almost palpable connection to the inner workings of the earth, “both terrifying and beautiful at the same time,” she says. The sulphur-smelling waters steamed and hissed, many decibels below the crypto-digital roar to which they’re weirdly—and maybe inextricably—linked.

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In November 1974, Pioneer 11 became the first spacecraft from Earth to visit Jupiter. Humans have likely been fascinated by this bright spot in the sky since we started looking up to the heavens, and our oldest astronomical records show regular observations of this huge planet. Then early in 17th-century Italy, Galileo built his telescope and identified the Jovian bands along with four moving dots. Those are the moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

Clocking in at 383 Earth masses, Jupiter is the most massive member in the solar system, and NASA so far has sent five missions to study it. It’s a hard planet to visit, though: Aside from our Sun, Jupiter has the largest magnetic field in the solar system. Such an extreme radiation environment can easily fry life-sustaining electronics that get near it (“near” here meaning millions of miles). This magnetic field is so large, in fact, that if you could see it in visible light, it would appear as the size of the full moon in our sky—even though the giant planet itself is roughly 500 million miles from Earth.

This week we’ll tag along with a few different space missions to Jupiter, taking its grandeur from all angles and in unprecedented detail.

One of Pioneer 11’s first photos is of Jupiter and its north pole. (It’s a funky angle, which is how the north pole ends up at the bottom of the shot.) The terminator–the line between Jovian day and night—also cuts across this polar region. When Pioneer snapped this pic, the spacecraft was just beginning to use a gravity assist from Jupiter to slingshot out toward Saturn. Bonus: The retro image quality gives those iconic bands a groovy ‘70s vibe.Photograph: NASA Ames
Flash-forward to 2016. The powerful Hubble Space Telescope in orbit around Earth takes an astoundingly detailed look at the same planet: You can see its telltale bands, the iconic Great Red Spot, and smaller individual storms. The disco party at the north pole is an aurora, same as we have here on Earth—created when highly charged particles from the Sun crash into Jupiter’s magnetic field.Photograph: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols (University of Leicester)
Just a few years after Pioneer 11 flew its initial reconnaissance mission, NASA launched the twin Voyager spacecraft to explore the outer solar system. When Voyager 2 arrived “at” Jupiter (well, it was about 8 million miles away), here’s one of the photos it took. It shows the planet and Io, its smallest and closest Galilean moon (named so since Galileo discovered four of them). Io is covered in volcanoes and is the same size as our own rocky satellite.Photograph: JPL
NASA’s Juno spacecraft goes around the planet Jupiter every 52 days; its orbit is elliptical, swooping in close and then swinging back out. This past May Juno approached and snapped this dizzying image of the planet and its seemingly endless storms. Scientists have always known Jupiter hosts the most puzzling storms in the solar system, but it turns out that some Jovian storms are invisible to the naked eye. Using its infrared camera, Juno revealed layer after layer of cyclones—a clue that the forces creating these clusters of storms might be more complex than initially thought.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill
The Juno spacecraft is in a polar orbit around Jupiter, which means that it flies over the north pole, and then ducks under the south pole. These two active regions are of great interest to the scientific community because of the high concentrations of cyclones and other storms prevalent in the region. Those storms have slightly different mechanics than their kin on Earth for three reasons: The planet is a gas giant and an enormous one; the atmospheric pressure at its “surface” is almost three times more than that on Earth; and the atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium, instead of the oxygen and nitrogen that surround our solid little planet. Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset
Typically clad in tans and creams, Jupiter is falsely colored here in rose by Juno, which lets us notice a pretty interesting feature. Look at the center of the image, and you’ll see an elongated clump of white clouds. These are upper atmosphere clouds, which no one had ever seen in Jupiter’s atmosphere until Juno showed up.Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Matt Brealey/Gustavo B C

Eager to venture beyond Jupiter? Explore the full space collection here.

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