Category Archives: Photography

Juno mission’s extension reveals Jupiter’s colossal swirling artwork

Jupiter has been revealed as a place where art and physics co-mingle in the most magnificent way.

I mentioned the Juno mission briefly in a piece I wrote back in October 2016. At that time, the project was due to end in 2018. But on June 6th of that year, NASA announced that the voyage around our biggest gas giant would be extended until 2021, with scientific analysis continuing into 2022.

The recent photos sent back by the craft have astonished space exploration professionals and enthusiasts worldwide. The combined effect of the planet’s stupendous size with the breathtaking beauty of its multi-coloured swirling gas clouds has finally been revealed. It sets the mind racing.

We often use the expression “the eye of the storm” when referring to hurricanes on Earth. Jupiter has storms – and eyes – on a scale never seen on Earth. As mentioned in my 2016 piece, wind speeds in its atmosphere can reach 384 mph (approximately 618 kph). If we zoom in, we can imagine that those eyes are watching the other members of the Solar System, waiting to take action if any should dare to stray out of their assigned orbit …

One person who knows just about everything there is to know about Jupiter is Professor Emma Bunce, Professor of Planetary Plasma Physics at the University of Leicester, who described the inner workings of Jupiter in a recent edition of The Life Scientific on BBC Radio 4. She emphasised the significance of the shape of Juno’s trajectory – an elliptical polar orbit designed to observe Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields, atmospheric dynamics and composition, and evolution.

Her scientific studies have been wide-ranging, encompassing the magnetospheres (magnetic fields) of Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury, which each have unique characteristics, as do certain planetary moons. But she was also keen to acknowledge the aesthetic dimension which the mission’s unusual orbit had revealed. Indeed, she suggested a resemblance between the latest photos from Jupiter and the work of Vincent Van Gogh.

I’m sure she was referring to his masterpiece The Starry Night (above), painted 111 years ago this month. Who knows, maybe human artists will one day compete for gallery space with scenes captured by future space missions …



Image credits

Jupiter: NASA
The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh, 1889: public domain

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Sandsend bridge, living on borrowed time …

This is another postcard from our family archive sent by GBB to his friend Mrs Roebuck in Doncaster.

It was stamped 8.00pm on Saturday, July 20th, 1907. “Lovely weather”, he writes, adding “I am improving”. Maybe a holiday at the seaside reinvigorated him after an illness, though his stay here was just a short visit: “Was at Sandsend today”. He gives an address “C/o Miss Swales” at West Cliff in nearby Whitby, a picturesque fishing village which has since become a very popular tourist destination.

(Whitby is famed as the early home of England’s greatest navigator and explorer, Captain James Cook, who first trained there for his epic adventures. He’s not to be confused with Captain James T. Kirk, though his mission too was “… to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”).

Sandsend is a lovely spot, as I recall from a visit many years ago – and indeed we will be holidaying in Sandsend later this summer.

The area around Whitby is a photographer’s dream – the snap in the postcard was taken by Tom Watson of Lythe (1863-1957), though the region’s most well-known photographer by far was Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (1853-1941). The Whitby Museum website exhibits and offers for sale prints of photos taken by these two and a number of other acclaimed local photographers.

The water level in this particular photograph is low but appears to be both tidal and potentially fed by waters from the surrounding hills – the North York Moors. Thus at certain times the bridge could be under pressure from both sides – from North Sea storms and tidal surges and from waters cascading down the hills.

Thus it was that 109 years ago this month, on 20th May, 1910, the East Row bridge disaster sent the 132-year-old structure tumbling down, as illustrated in this dramatic photo in the East Cleveland Image Archive. Theories as to the precise cause of the collapse were briefly recounted in this piece in the Whitby Gazette in 2010.

So this postcard from our family archive is a somewhat poignant memento of a time less than three years before disaster struck …


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