Space Ghouls

Even the ghouls on Jupiter are out for Halloween!

Right in time for the spookiest holiday of all, NASA is showing off an eerie photo of Jupiter's noxious clouds — which are scary enough on their own already, considering that they're jam-packed with toxic ammonia — taking the shape of a creepy face reminiscent of Edvard Munch's "The Scream."

The photo, taken of Jupiter's far north Jet N7 region, was actually captured back on September 7th, snapped by NASA's Juno spacecraft during the shuttle's 54th flyby of the gas giant and later processed by citizen scientist Vladimir Tarasov "using raw data from the JunoCam instrument," according to NASA. But the space agency only just revealed the image last week, sharing the spooky spectacle to social media on October 25 in honor of the famed cubist painter Pablo Picasso's birthday.

"OK. I like it. Picasso!" the agency wrote in an X-formerly-Twitter post last Wednesday, arguing that the countenance "resembles a Cubist portrait displaying multiple perspectives."

We do see what NASA's getting at with the Picasso reference, though we may still argue that the hollow-eyed figure, half-shrouded in darkness, has more of a horror-surrealist edge — perfect for All Hallow's Eve, say.


According to NASA, though, seeing faces in Jupiter's swirling, stormy clouds isn't anything new.

"As often occurs in views from Juno," NASA wrote in the image's description, "Jupiter's clouds in this picture lend themselves to pareidolia, the effect that causes observers to perceive faces or other patterns in largely random patterns."

In other words, NASA says, we're just as likely to see faces in Jupiter's clouds as we are to see human-like visages in tree stumps or toast — or, of course, in other celestial bodies, like the famous Man on the Moon or in the figure seen in Mars' Cydonia region.

Per NASA, the image was taken from approximately 4,800 miles above Jupiter's cloud tops. And though the whole half-covered-in-darkness thing certainly adds to the creepiness of the face, NASA also noted that the "low angle of sunlight highlights the complex topography of features in this region, which scientists have studied to better understand the processes playing out in Jupiter's atmosphere." So, the creepier the lighting, the better for science, apparently!

Again, there's not actually an Imhotep Sand Cloud figure moving through Jupiter's poisonous air. But in case you didn't have a Halloween costume for tonight and were hoping to explore some extremely niche space-themed options, get yourself some blue-greige face paint, and you'll be golden.

More on NASA snaps: James Webb Spots Numerous Pairs of Planets, Hanging out with No Stars

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