Jupiter is known for its long cloud bands stretching across the face of the planet. But NASA’s Juno spacecraft is showing us a different side of Jupiter today. One without cloud bands. Scott Bolton, principal investigator of the Juno mission, says the first image of the gas giant’s north pole “looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before.”
Stunning! It looks like we are looking at a world never seen before. The color is what grabs me. The oranges, yellows and reds we are used to seeing give way to blues. Bolton says they see signs the clouds have shadows. That could mean we are looking at clouds above other features. Look towards the top of the image at the day/night line. You see the clouds showing up beyond that dark line? That’s the area NASA believes could indicate shadows.
It’s not just what we see that surprises the Juno team. It’s what we don’t. “Saturn has a hexagon at the north pole,” said Bolton. “There is nothing on Jupiter that anywhere near resembles that. The largest planet in our solar system is truly unique. We have 36 more flybys to study just how unique it really is.”
Here’s another contrast-enhanced version of the image.
We can see many ovals and pinwheel features in the new image. They kinda resemble hurricanes on Earth. Juno’s team will be keeping track of how these features shift around Jupiter’s north pole as the spacecraft completes more orbits. Tracking their motion will help scientists get a better grip on the Jupiter’s atmosphere dynamics.
Here’s one more image showing Jupiter’s south pole.
Awesome job Juno team and NASA! You guys are hitting home runs with every new mission. New Horizons amazed with its first images of Pluto. Juno’s first images of Jupiter’s north pole are a great follow-up.
Juno was 48,000 miles away when it captured the north pole image. Remember, the spacecraft was just 2,500 miles away at its closest point. Six megabytes of data was collected in the six-hour trip from above JUpiter’s north pole to below its south pole. That data is still being analyzed.
Infrared images also revealed never before seen glimpses of the south pole. The Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) captured Jupiter’s southern aurora for the first time.
“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,” said Alberto Adriani, co-investigator of the JIRAM instrument.
Juno didn’t just collect images. The spacecraft’s Radio/Plasma Wave Experiment (Waves) gathered radio emissions from Jupiter. Radio emissions from Jupiter aren’t a surprise. We’ve known about them since the 1950s. But no spacecraft has ever analyzed them from so close before. Have a listen.
Creepy, right? Scientists working on the Waves instrument will be busy figuring out where the electrons come from that are creating these radio waves.
The first images are better than I could imagine. I can’t wait to see the ones from just 2,500 miles away. Now, the wait begins for Juno to swing around for another pass.