Scientists at NASA have just gotten back images of Jupiter from Juno -- and they were absolutely blown away.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been racing toward Jupiter for its first close pass, and new images sent back to Earth have floored scientists, showing a view of the north pole that has never been seen before in such detail. And it shows a part of Jupiter that looks very different from the rest of the planet: instead of red bands of violent storms, it has bluish hue, a surprising discovery for the scientists.
Juno is finally starting to send back to some data and images from Jupiter after it entered the gas giant’s orbit back in July. The spacecraft came within just 4,200 kilometers of the cloud tops in its most recent pass, and has sent back 6 megabytes worth of data that scientists are analyzing, according to a NASA statement.
Already the images are making waves, however, with NASA saying that the pictures are like nothing they’d ever seen before. The north pole of Jupiter isn’t visible from Earth, so these photographs are truly spectacular.
As for the rest of the data, scientists will be using the special instruments on Juno to examine the many layers of Jupiter. They hope to come to a greater knowledge on the composition of the planet, as well as more precise readings of its temperature, its motion through space, and other details.
“First glimpse of Jupiter’s north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “It’s bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms. There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to — this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We’re seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features.”
“JIRAM is getting under Jupiter’s skin, giving us our first infrared close-ups of the planet,” said Alberto Adriani, JIRAM co-investigator from Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, Rome. “These first infrared views of Jupiter’s north and south poles are revealing warm and hot spots that have never been seen before. And while we knew that the first-ever infrared views of Jupiter’s south pole could reveal the planet’s southern aurora, we were amazed to see it for the first time. No other instruments, both from Earth or space, have been able to see the southern aurora. Now, with JIRAM, we see that it appears to be very bright and well-structured. The high level of detail in the images will tell us more about the aurora’s morphology and dynamics.”