NASA’s Juno spacecraft is in the midst of another long 53-day orbit of Jupiter. Yesterday (June 21), NASA and the Juno team released a new image put together by a pair of citizen scientists. Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran used data collected by JunoCam to give us this fantastic close up of Jupiter’s cloud tops.
The Juno spacecraft was just 9,600 miles above Jupiter’s stormy clouds when it snapped this image.
Most of us instantly think of the Great Red Spot when we think about storms on Jupiter. But not all of Jupiter’s storms act the same. The bright oval storm seen in the bottom center of the image doesn’t have “significant motion apparent in the interior,” according to NASA. It doesn’t have that tight rotation we are used to seeing from the Great Red Spot. That means the wind speed likely dies down big time toward the center.
Unlike other missions like New Horizons, the Juno team looks to the public for help processing Jupiter images. Folks like Gerald and Seán start by grabbing raw images from JunoCam via the imaging processing page. Here’s an example of what a raw image looks like.
Doesn’t look like much, does it? With a little help from programs like Photoshop, they end up looking like this.
After browsing YouTube the other day looking at random Photoshop tutorials, I came across one that shows you how to process the raw images into something that looks similar to ones above. Howard Pinsky walks us through how to do it in just over four minutes.
What’s next for Juno
As I mentioned above, Juno is in the middle of its 14th orbit around Jupiter. Each round trip around the gas giant takes 53 days. The mission was initially designed for 14-day orbits, but concerns over valves on the spacecraft’s fuel system meant the spacecraft would stay put in its longer orbit.
Juno can still do all the science it was designed to do, it’s just going to take a little longer to do it. A few weeks ago, NASA approved an extension to the Juno mission until July 2021. That gives it another 41 months in orbit around Jupiter.
“With these funds, not only can the Juno team continue to answer long-standing questions about Jupiter that first fueled this exciting mission, but they’ll also investigate new scientific puzzles motivated by their discoveries thus far,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “With every additional orbit, both scientists and citizen scientists will help unveil new surprises about this distant world.”
Juno will complete its 13th science flyby above Jupiter’s clouds on July 16.