NASA shares image of spooky ‘face’ on Jupiter

JunoCam captured an image that looks like something from The Twilight Zone.
By | Published: October 31, 2023 | Last updated on November 6, 2023

The folks at NASA not only explore space and do the other cool stuff they do, they’ve also got a great sense of timing.

The agency shared this photo of what looks like a creepy face on Jupiter just in time for Halloween. Boo!

Vladimir Tarasov made the image using publicly available data from JunoCam, part of the Juno spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. The craft was about 4,800 miles (7,725 kilometers) from Jupiter’s clouds when the data were collected Sept. 7. The region imaged is at 69° north, highlighting Juno’s unique mission to study the planet’s polar regions, rather than just the area near its equator.

The “face” in the image is not really a face, of course. Turbulent clouds and storms were photographed right at the interface of day and night. That is called the terminator (the dividing line between light and dark on the image). Have you ever looked at a cloud in the sky and thought it looked like a dog, a cat, or a face? That’s pareidolia, a scientific term that describes how our minds can make us think we see faces and patterns in otherwise random things.

That looks familiar

The “face” that Tarasov found looks a lot like a character from a classic Twilight Zone episode. Both “The Eye of the Beholder” and “The Masks” include characters that look a lot like that face on Jupiter:

Screenshot from the Twilight Zone episode The Masks
A screenshot from the Twilight Zone episode “The Masks.” Credit: @thetwilightzone5030/YouTube

There could be other faces or objects waiting to be found in the data from the Juno mission. It arrived at Jupiter July 4, 2016. The JunoCam camera is entirely dedicated to public outreach, with members of the public processing the images using various techniques. NASA makes data available here and has more on its citizen science program here. The images there are more than worthwhile to look at, even if you don’t see a face.