Recently this awesome image of Jupiter with its moon Io hit the net and spread like wildfire with everyone posting it to their Facebook wall and linking it on twitter. But is it real? Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy says it is, but explains how it was created:
The shot of Jupiter is actually a composite of three images taken in the infrared, well past what the human eye can see. That big blue spot is actually the Great Red Spot! But the scientists applied a false color to the infrared images for this picture. The different colors more or less show cloud height: high-altitude clouds are blue, and clouds deeper in the Jovian atmosphere are red.
Io is actually depicted as more true to what your eye would see — it’s shown in visible light, not infrared. However, that image of the moon was taken nearly a day after the Jupiter pictures were taken! The two pictures were stitched together later. The red spot is an active volcano on Io, and the blue swoosh is the plume of ejecta reaching well above the moon’s surface.
So it looks amazing, but it’s a real image that was created out of multiple other images taken by a spacecraft nearly five years ago. Still even knowing the truth doesn’t change out awesome the image is.