Voyager was one of NASA’s most ambitious missions, and Jupiter is arguably our solar system’s most beautiful planet. So when the two met for the first time, it was history — and art — in the making.

NASA launched its twin Voyager spacecrafts in the summer of 1977. Voyager 1 was first to approach Jupiter, entering the gas giant’s orbit in March 1979.

As the probe approached our solar system‘s largest and swirliest planet that spring, it captured the iconic video below. It’s a time-lapse movie made of 66 images.

jupiter movie

Voyager 1 recorded its Jupiter approach over 60 Jupiter days in 1979.
NASA/JPL

“Jupiter is far more complex in its atmospheric motions than we had ever imagined,” Bradford Smith, who was leading the imaging team, said in a press briefing that February, even before Voyager had gotten close enough to make this video, according to Astronomy.com.

faint jupiter in yellow white and brown hanging in black space

Even as early as January 1979, when Voyager was still 34 million miles away, the probe was showing Jupiter like nobody had seen it.
NASA/JPL

He added that his team was “happily bewildered.”

The spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter on March 5, 1979.

The footage was monumental. To put it in perspective, prior to Voyager, the best close-up images of Jupiter were from the Pioneer 10 spacecraft. They looked like this:

jupiter series of images of increasing size show the planet blurry with film lines across it getting closer and closer, in a thin crescent in the top image progression and in an almost-full bright disc in the bottom progression

Snapshots NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft took as it approached and flew away from Jupiter.
NASA

Voyager was a major upgrade.

The first probe photographed Jupiter for 4 months, capturing 19,000 pictures. Voyager 2 entered Jupiter’s orbit as Voyager 1 was on its way out and took an additional 14,000 photos before completing its Jupiter encounter in August 1979.

That was 45 years ago. Today we have a wealth of stunningly detailed, colorful snapshots of Jupiter and its moons, thanks to NASA’s more modern Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting the gas giant since 2016.

Swirling cloud belts on Jupiter's surface.

Colorful swirling cloud belts span Jupiter’s surface, as captured by Juno.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Tanya Oleksuik (CC BY NC SA 3.0)

Compared to Voyager’s first glimpse of Jupiter, Juno’s portraits capture its intricate features in finer detail. With the help of modern image processing, Jupiter’s colors, patterns, and violent weather are on full display.

Side by side of jupiter

Jupiter as seen by Voyager 1 (left) is far less detailed than this enhanced imaged of Jupiter captured by Juno.
NASA / JPL; NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Rita Najm © (CC BY)

The planet’s iconic Great Red Spot is an anticyclone large enough to swallow Earth. Juno data has revealed that it extends up to 310 miles below the visible surface of the Jovian atmosphere.

That’s greater than the distance between you and the International Space Station when it’s overhead.

Jupiter great red spot side by side

Juno captured this close-up of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (right) in sharper detail than Voyager 1 did (left).
NASA/JPL; NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt /Seán Doran

Juno even spots Jupiter’s moons up close sometimes — such as Io, which Voyager discovered to have active volcanoes spewing lava into space.

Jupiter floating in space next to it's crescent moon, Io

Jupiter and its volcanically active moon Io captured together by the Juno spacecraft.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Alain Mirón Velázquez © (CC BY)

Juno has even spotted Io’s shadow gliding over Jupiter’s turbulent surface.

Shadow of Jupiter's moon Io on Jupiter's surface.

Io casts its shadow on Jupiter.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill (CC-BY)

The Voyager spacecrafts are now in interstellar space, the only human-made objects to ever leave our solar system. They are both slowly losing their power supply.

Juno should still be circling Jupiter, and sending back gorgeous images like this, until at least September 2025.

Jupiter's South Temperate Belt and Great Red Spot photographed against the darkness of space.

Jupiter’s reddish-orange South Temperate Belt, with the Great Red Spot, the most dominant atmospheric feature in the planet’s southern hemisphere.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Navaneeth Krishnan (S CC BY)

That’s when Juno’s current mission ends, but if it’s still functional NASA might keep it going for more years to come.