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NASA wants you to help it choose the photo sites for its next Jupiter flyby

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Why it matters to you

Your vote can determine the kind of Jupiter imagery that lands in the hands of NASA's Juno science team.

If you had your finger on the shutter of a camera that’s currently orbiting Jupiter, what kind of pictures would you try to take?

To bring its faraway Juno mission closer to the masses, NASA is now offering space enthusiasts the chance to vote on the kind of images snapped by the JunoCam as it passes close by the gas giant early next month.

It’s the first time the space agency has offered the public the chance to vote on the type of images Juno takes during one of its journeys around the planet.

“We’re looking forward to people visiting our website and becoming part of the JunoCam imaging team,” said Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “It’s up to the public to determine the best locations in Jupiter’s atmosphere for JunoCam to capture during this flyby.”

The spacecraft’s camera will start snapping away on February 2  as the it approaches Jupiter’s north pole. At its closest point, it’ll be around 2,700 miles (4,300 kilometers) above the planet’s swirling clouds.

Photos will be taken during a two-hour window before Juno departs from below the planet’s south pole. The spacecraft is currently on its fourth 53-day orbit around Jupiter since arriving there in July 2016 following a five-year, 1.74-billion-mile journey from Earth.

With limited on-board storage, NASA has to be choosy about what the  JunoCam photographs. So you might vote for it to snap “the big red stripe,” or possibly “the cap of Jupiter.” Alternatively, the “small white storm” sounds interesting, or how about “the string of pearls”?

“The pictures JunoCam can take depict a narrow swath of territory the spacecraft flies over, so the points of interest imaged can provide a great amount of detail,” Hansen said.

She added that the images will play “a vital role in helping the Juno science team establish what is going on in Jupiter’s atmosphere at any moment. We’re looking forward to seeing what people from outside the science team think is important.”

More: Juno’s images reveal that Jupiter’s poles are unlike anything NASA imagined

JunoCam is a color, visible-light camera capable of capturing impressive images of Jupiter’s poles and cloud tops. NASA points out that the camera was included on the spacecraft primarily as a tool to help generate public interest in the mission, although the content it captures is also proving useful for the science team.

If you miss Monday’s voting deadline then not to worry as NASA plans to run similar voting rounds for future flybys of Jupiter.