Astronomers have captured some of the highest-resolution images of Jupiter ever obtained from the ground using a technique known as “lucky imaging”.

The observations, from the Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s dormant volcano, Mauna Kea, reveal lightning strikes and storm systems forming around deep clouds of water ice and liquid. The images show the warm, deep layers of the planet’s atmosphere glowing through gaps in thick cloud cover in a “jack-o-lantern”-like effect.

“The Gemini data were critical because they allowed us to probe deeply into Jupiter’s clouds on a regular schedule,” said Michael Wong of University of California, Berkeley, who led the research team. “We used a very powerful technique called lucky imaging.”

The technique involves obtaining a large number of very short exposure images and then only using the sharpest ones, when the Earth’s atmosphere is briefly stable, and discarding the rest. The latest observations provide some of the sharpest infrared images of Jupiter ever obtained from the ground.

“These images rival the view from space”

Mr Wong
Jupiter as seen through the International Gemini Observatory’s lucky imaging process.

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