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NASA just cracked a great nerd joke 400 years in the making

Io and Jupiter before Juno caught them together

Photo via Antonio Allegri, called Correggio/Wikimedia

Oh NASA, never change.

Back in the early 1600s, Galileo and another less-known astronomer, Simon Marius, noted the largest four of Jupiter’s 67 moons. They were named after four of the mythological god Jupiter’s many paramours.

If you’re not up on your Greco-Roman mythology, Jupiter didn’t exactly bed these lovers before he married his wife, Juno.

Fast-forward to 2011, and NASA was launching their space probe Juno, to go take some sweet pics of Jupiter. Then, just yesterday, NASA received word from the probe that it was successfully orbiting Jupiter. So, as some redditors pointed out, you could say that Juno has come to check on her canoodling husband.

But in the same r/space thread, another redditor noted that the story gets better: Jupiter knew Juno was onto his cheating. So he attempted to conceal his affairs by covering himself in a cloud. Juno wasn’t fooled. When she saw a cloud getting all up on Io’s business (as depicted in the Correggio painting above), she blew the cloud away to reveal Jupiter’s infidelity.

This capability of peering past Jupiter’s obfuscating clouds is the true origin of the space probe’s name, according to a 2011 press release from NASA, though they worded it a bit more delicately:

Juno’s name comes from Greek and Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature.

We hope Jupiter’s true planetary nature is as fascinating as the mythological god’s constant infidelities were to ancient civilization.

Cynthia McKelvey

Cynthia McKelvey

Cynthia McKelvey covered the health and science for the Daily Dot until 2017. She earned a graduate degree in science communication from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2014. Her work has appeared in Gizmodo, Scientific American Mind, and Mic.com.