NASA’s Juno mission launched in 2011 and arrived at Jupiter five years later in 2016. Since then, the solar-powered spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter and collecting data about what is going on beneath the dense layer of clouds that cover the gas giant planet. Now, NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
The Juno craft is in a highly elliptical orbit around Jupiter, which means that it is traveling in a oval shape around it. The advantage of this is that the craft regularly passes close to the planet, making this the first space mission to fly as close as 2,600 miles to Jupiter’s cloud tops. Every 53 days the craft makes a pass of the planet and tracks activity from the north pole to the south pole.
This video shows a gorgeous fly-around of Jupiter, compiled from the images taken by the Juno mission:
The image below shows the structure of the clouds in Jupiter’s South Equatorial Belt, and was taken at 10:28 p.m. PDT on July 15, 2018, when the spacecraft flew by the planet for the 14th time. The image was created by Kevin M. Gill from data from the JunoCam imager.
This next image shows the long brown spot known as a “brown barge” which is a part of Jupiter’s North North Equatorial Belt. The image has been color-enhanced to make it easier to see, and was taken at 6:01 p.m. PDT on September 6, 2018. The brown barge is a weather formation, consisting of a cyclonic region which forms temporarily and dissipates once the cloud bank reorganizes itself. These brown barges are sometimes hard to spot as their color blends into the atmosphere of the planet, but at some points the dark material from the belt recedes and allows the formation to be seen.
Finally, this image of the Jupiter cloudscape shows a large number of “pop-up” storms in white, and was taken at 1:55 p.m. PDT on October 29, 2018 during the craft’s 16th close flyby of the planet. You can see the swirling clouds of the giant storms which move across the planet, forming dramatic cyclones at the poles.
To see more beautiful images of Jupiter, head to NASA’s Juno gallery.
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