As part of a wider campaign to map Jupiter's complex atmosphere, the VLT was used in parallel with observations by other telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and contributions by amateur astronomers from around the world. But the VISIR instrument was able to see the infrared radiation leaking through Jupiter's cloud tops, revealing an almost hellish-looking scene -- even though Jupiter's cloud top temperature is actually very cold.
Capturing such high-resolution views of the gas giant from the ground is no easy task. Though Paranal Observatory is situated atop a 2,600 meter (8,700 ft) high mountain under some of the driest, pristine skies in the world, some clever imaging techniques are required to sharpen ground-based astronomical images.
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Using a technique known as "lucky imaging," the VISIR records thousands of individual frames. Then, the images that are least affected by the blurring effects of the atmosphere (the "lucky frames") are selected and combined as one to produce an extremely sharp final observation, revealing the finest of details in Jupiter's infrared atmosphere.