This composite image, derived from data collected by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard our Juno spacecraft, shows the central cyclone at the planet’s north pole and the eight cyclones that encircle it.
However, as tightly spaced as the cyclones are, they have remained distinct, with individual morphologies over the seven months of observations. The question is, why do they not merge? We are beginning to realize that not all gas giants are created equal.
During a recent close flyby of the gas giant Jupiter, our Juno spacecraft captured this stunning series of images showing swirling cloud patterns on the planet’s south pole. At first glance, the series might appear to be the same image repeated. But closer inspection reveals slight changes, which are most easily noticed by comparing the far-left image with the far-right image.
Directly, the images show Jupiter. But, through slight variations in the images, they indirectly capture the motion of the Juno spacecraft itself, once again swinging around a giant planet hundreds of millions of miles from Earth.
Juno captured this color-enhanced time-lapse sequence of images on Feb. 7 between 10:21 a.m. and 11:01 a.m. EST. At the time, the spacecraft was between 85,292 to 124,856 miles (137,264 to 200,937 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet with the images centered on latitudes from 84.1 to 75.5 degrees south.
Jupiter’s vibrant bands of light belts and dark regions appear primed for their close-up during our Juno spacecraft’s 10th flyby on Feb. 7. This flyby was a gravity science positioned pass. During orbits that highlight gravity experiments, Juno is positioned toward Earth in a way that allows both transmitters to downlink data in real-time to one of the antennas of our Deep Space Network. All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were in operation during the flyby, collecting data that is now being returned to Earth. The science behind this beautifully choreographed image will help us understand the origin and structure of the planet beneath those lush, swirling clouds.
Our Juno mission has been exploring Jupiter since July 2016 with a special passenger on board: JunoCam, an instrument designed to take spectacular close-up color images of the largest planet in our solar system. From the raw images, citizen scientists have processed a range of beautiful photographs that highlight Jupiter’s features, even turning them into works of art. Below, 10 stunning images JunoCam has given us over the past year.
1. Jovian tempest.
This color-enhanced image of a massive, raging storm in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere was captured by our Juno spacecraft during its ninth close flyby on Oct. 24, 2017. The storm is rotating counter-clockwise with a wide range of cloud altitudes, and the darker clouds are expected to be deeper in the atmosphere than the brightest clouds.
2. A southern stunner.
Jupiter’s southern hemisphere shows off in beautiful detail in this image taken on Oct. 24, 2017. The color-enhanced view captures one of the white ovals in the “String of Pearls,” one of eight massive rotating storms at 40 degrees south latitude on the gas giant planet.
3. Dreaming in color.
Artist Mik Petter created this unique digital piece using data from the JunoCam. The art form, known as fractals, uses mathematical formulas to create an infinite variety of form, detail, color and light. The original JunoCam image was taken on July 10, 2017.
4. Jovian moon shadow.
Jupiter’s moon Amalthea casts a shadow on the gas giant planet in this image taken on Sept. 1, 2017. The elongated shape of the shadow is a result of both the location of the moon with relation to Jupiter in this image as well as the irregular shape of the moon itself.
5. 95 minutes over Jupiter.
Once every 53 days, Juno swings close to Jupiter, speeding over its clouds. In about two hours, the spacecraft travels from a perch over Jupiter’s north pole through its closest approach (perijove), then passes over the south pole on its way back out. This sequence shows 11 color-enhanced images from Perijove 8 (Sept. 1, 2017) with the south pole on the left (11th image in the sequence) and the north pole on the right (first image in the sequence).
6. Soaring high.
This striking image of Jupiter was taken on Sept. 1, 2017 as Juno performed its eighth flyby. The spacecraft was 4,707 miles (7,576 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet at a latitude of about -17.4 degrees. Noteworthy: “Whale’s Tail” and “Dan’s Spot.”
7. In true color.
This true-color image offers a natural color rendition of what the Great Red Spot and surrounding areas would look like to human eyes from Juno’s position. The image was taken on July 10, 2017 as the Juno spacecraft performed its seventh close flyby of Jupiter.
8. The ‘face’ of Jupiter.
JunoCam images aren’t just for art and science—sometimes they’re created for a good chuckle. This image, processed by citizen scientist Jason Major, is titled “Jovey McJupiterface.” By rotating the image 180 degrees and orienting it from south up, two white oval storms turn into eyeballs, and the “face” of Jupiter is revealed. The original image was taken by the Juno spacecraft on May 19, 2017.
9. Bands of clouds.
This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s bands of light and dark clouds was created by citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran. Three of the white oval storms known as the “String of Pearls” are visible near the top of the image. Each of the alternating light and dark atmospheric bands in this image is wider than Earth, and each rages around Jupiter at hundreds of miles (kilometers) per hour. The lighter areas are regions where gas is rising, and the darker bands are regions where gas is sinking. Juno captured the image on May 19, 2017.
10. The edge.
This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian “galaxy” of swirling storms. Juno captured this image on Feb. 2, 2017 and citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko enhanced the color to bring out the rich detail in the storm and surrounding clouds. Just south of the dark storm is a bright, oval-shaped storm with high, bright, white clouds, reminiscent of a swirling galaxy. As a final touch, he rotated the image 90 degrees, turning the picture into a work of art.
Soaring to the depths of our universe, gallant spacecraft roam the cosmos, snapping images of celestial wonders. Some spacecraft have instruments capable of capturing radio emissions. When scientists convert these to sound waves, the results are eerie to hear.
In time for Halloween, we’ve put together a compilation of elusive “sounds” of howling planets and whistling helium that is sure to make your skin crawl.
This eerie audio represents data collected by our Cassini spacecraft, as it crossed through the gap between Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017, during the first dive of the mission’s Grand Finale. The instrument is able to record ring particles striking the spacecraft in its data. In the data from this dive, there is virtually no detectable peak in pops and cracks that represent ring particles striking the spacecraft. The lack of discernible pops and cracks indicates the region is largely free of small particles.
Voyager Tsunami Waves in Interstellar Space
Listen to this howling audio from our Voyager 1 spacecraft. Voyager 1 has experienced three “tsunami waves” in interstellar space. This kind of wave occurs as a result of a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun. The most recent tsunami wave that Voyager experienced began in February 2014, and may still be going. Listen to how these waves cause surrounding ionized matter to ring like a bell.
Voyager Sounds of Interstellar Space
Our Voyager 1 spacecraft captured these high-pitched, spooky sounds of interstellar space from October to November 2012 and April to May 2013.
The soundtrack reproduces the amplitude and frequency of the plasma waves as “heard” by Voyager 1. The waves detected by the instrument antennas can be simply amplified and played through a speaker. These frequencies are within the range heard by human ears.
When scientists extrapolated this line even further back in time (not shown), they deduced that Voyager 1 first encountered interstellar plasma in August 2012.
Plasma Sounds at Jupiter
Ominous sounds of plasma! Our Juno spacecraft has observed plasma wave signals from Jupiter’s ionosphere. The results in this video show an increasing plasma density as Juno descended into Jupiter’s ionosphere during its close pass by Jupiter on February 2, 2017.
Roar of Jupiter
Juno’s Waves instrument recorded this supernatural sounding encounter with the bow shock over the course of about two hours on June 24, 2016. “Bow shock” is where the supersonic solar wind is heated and slowed by Jupiter’s magnetosphere. It is analogous to a sonic boom on Earth. The next day, June 25, 2016, the Waves instrument witnessed the crossing of the magnetopause. “Trapped continuum radiation” refers to waves trapped in a low-density cavity in Jupiter’s magnetosphere.
Here are 10 perspective-building images for your computer desktop and mobile device wallpaper.
These are all real images, sent very recently by our planetary missions throughout the solar system.
1. Our Sun
Warm up with this view from our Solar Dynamics Observatory showing active regions on the Sun in October 2017. They were observed in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that reveals plasma heated to over a million degrees.
This look from our Curiosity Mars rover includes several geological layers in Gale crater to be examined by the mission, as well as the higher reaches of Mount Sharp beyond. The redder rocks of the foreground are part of the Murray formation. Pale gray rocks in the middle distance of the right half of the image are in the Clay Unit. A band between those terrains is “Vera Rubin Ridge,” where the rover is working currently. The view combines six images taken with the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Jan. 24, 2017.
Cassini peers toward a sliver of Saturn’s sunlit atmosphere while the icy rings stretch across the foreground as a dark band on March 31, 2017. This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 7 degrees below the ring plane.
This image of the limb of dwarf planet Ceres shows a section of the northern hemisphere, as seen by our Dawn mission. Prominently featured is Occator Crater, home of Ceres’ intriguing “bright spots.” The latest research suggests that the bright material in this crater is comprised of salts left behind after a briny liquid emerged from below.
This image from our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows a crater in the region with the most impressive known gully activity in Mars’ northern hemisphere. Gullies are active in the winter due to carbon dioxide frost, but northern winters are shorter and warmer than southern winters, so there is less frost and less gully activity.
A dynamic storm at the southern edge of Jupiter’s northern polar region dominates this Jovian cloudscape, courtesy of Juno. This storm is a long-lived anticyclonic oval named North North Temperate Little Red Spot 1. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran processed this image using data from the JunoCam imager.
Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from Cassini. This view of Enceladus was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back before its mission came to an end on Sept. 15, after nearly 20 years in space.
Applying Wallpaper: 1. Click on the screen resolution you would like to use. 2. Right-click on the image (control-click on a Mac) and select the option ‘Set the Background’ or ‘Set as Wallpaper’ (or similar).
Our Juno spacecraft will fly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on July 10 at 10:06 p.m. EDT. This will be humanity’s first up-close and personal view of the gas giant’s iconic 10,000-mile-wide storm, which has been monitored since 1830 and possibly existing for more than 350 years.
The data collection of the Great Red Spot is part of Juno’s sixth science flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops. Perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter’s center) will be July 10 at 9:55 p.m. EDT.
At the time of perijove, Juno will be about 2,200 miles above the planet’s cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later…Juno will have covered another 24,713 miles and will be directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of the Great Red Spot. The spacecraft will pass about 5,600 miles above its clouds.
When will we see images from this flyby?
During the flyby, all eight of the spacecraft’s instruments will be turned on, as well as its imager, JunoCam. Because the spacecraft will be collecting data with its Microwave Radiometer (MWR), which measures radio waves from Jupiter’s deep atmosphere, we cannot downlink information during the pass. The MWR can tell us how much water there is and how material is moving far below the cloud tops.
During the pass, all data will be stored on-board…with a downlink planned afterwards. Once the downlink begins, engineering data from the spacecraft’s instruments will come to Earth first, followed by images from JunoCam.
The unprocessed, raw images will be located HERE, on approximately July 14. Follow @NASAJuno on Twitter for updates.
Did you know you can download and process these raw images?
We invite the public to act as a virtual imaging team…participating in key steps of the process, from identifying features of interest to sharing the finished images online. After JunoCam data arrives on Earth, members of the public can process the images to create color pictures. The public also helps determine which points on the planet will be photographed. Learn more about voting on JunoCam’s next target HERE.
JunoCam has four filters: red, green, blue and near-infrared. We get red, green and blue strips on one spacecraft rotation (the spacecraft rotation rate is 2 revolutions per minute) and the near-infrared strips on the second rotation. To get the final image product, the strips must be stitched together and the colors lined up.
Anything from cropping to color enhancing to collaging is fair game. Be creative!
Jupiter, we’ve got quite the photoshoot planned for you. Today, our Juno spacecraft is flying directly over the Great Red Spot, kicking off the first-ever close-up study of this iconic storm and passing by at an altitude of only 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers). In honor of this historic event, below are 10 things to know about the planet’s most famous feature.
1. A Storm That Puts Others to Shame
The Great Red Spot is a gigantic, high-pressure, ancient storm at Jupiter’s southern hemisphere that’s one of the longest lasting in the solar system. It’s so large, about 1.3 Earths could fit inside of it. And you can bet you’ll get swept away—the storm’s tumultuous winds peak at about 400 mph.
2. How Old Is It?
The Great Red Spot has been swirling wildly over Jupiter’s skies for the past 150 years—maybe even much longer. While people saw a big spot on Jupiter when they started stargazing through telescopes in the 1600s, it’s still unclear whether they were looking at a different storm. Today, scientists know the Great Red Spot has been there for a while, but they still struggle to learn what causes its swirl of reddish hues.
3. Time for That Close-Up
Juno will fly over the Great Red Spot about 12 minutes after the spacecraft makes the closest approach to Jupiter of its current orbit at 6:55 p.m. on July 10, PDT (9:55 p.m. on July 10, EDT; 1:55 a.m. on July 11, Universal Time). Juno entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.
4. Oh, So Mysterious
Understanding the Great Red Spot is not easy, and it’s mostly Jupiter’s fault. The planet a thousand times as big as Earth and consists mostly of gas. A liquid ocean of hydrogen surrounds its core, and the atmosphere consists mostly of hydrogen and helium. That translates into no solid ground (like we have on Earth) to weaken storms. Also, Jupiter’s clouds make it hard to gather clear observations of its lower atmosphere.
This false-color image of Jupiter was taken on May 18, 2017, with a mid-infrared filter centered at a wavelength of 8.8 microns, at the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, in collaboration with observations of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno mission. Credit: NAOJ/NASA/JPL-Caltech
5. Help From Hawaii
To assist Juno’s investigation of the giant planet’s atmosphere, Earth-based telescopes lent their helpful eyes. On May 18, 2017, the Gemini North telescope and the Subaru Telescope—both located on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea peak—simultaneously examined Jupiter in very high resolutions at different wavelengths. These latest observations helped provide information about the Great Red Spot’s atmospheric dynamics at different depths and at other regions of Jupiter.
6. Curious Observations
Observations from Subaru showed the Great Red Spot “had a cold and cloudy interior increasing toward its center, with a periphery that was warmer and clearer,” said Juno science team member Glenn Orton of our Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “A region to its northwest was unusually turbulent and chaotic, with bands that were cold and cloudy, alternating with bands that were warm and clear.”
This composite, false-color infrared image of Jupiter reveals haze particles over a range of altitudes, as seen in reflected sunlight. It was taken using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii on May 18, 2017, in collaboration with observations of Jupiter by our Juno mission. Credits: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/NASA/JPL-Caltech
7. Hot in Here
Scientists were stumped by a particular question: Why were the temperatures in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere comparable to those found at Earth, even though Jupiter is more than five times the distance from the sun? If the sun isn’t the heat source, then what is? Turns out, the storm in the Great Red Spot produces two kinds of turbulent energy waves that collide and heat the upper atmosphere. Gravity waves are much like how a guitar string moves when plucked, while acoustic waves are compressions of the air (sound waves). Heating in the upper atmosphere 500 miles (800 kilometers) above the Great Red Spot is thought to be caused by a combination of these two wave types “crashing,” like ocean waves on a beach.
8. Color Theory
Scientists don’t know exactly how the Great Red Spot’s rich colors formed. Studies predict Jupiter’s upper atmosphere has clouds consisting of ammonia, ammonium hydrosulfide, and water, but it’s still unclear how or even whether these chemicals react. “We’re talking about something that only makes up a really tiny portion of the atmosphere,” said Amy Simon, an expert in planetary atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “That’s what makes it so hard to figure out exactly what makes the colors that we see.” Over at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, researchers concluded that the ruddy color is likely a product of simple chemicals being broken apart by sunlight in the planet’s upper atmosphere. “Our models suggest most of the Great Red Spot is actually pretty bland in color, beneath the upper cloud layer of reddish material,” said Kevin Baines, a Cassini scientist at JPL.
This image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot was created by a citizen scientist, Roman Tkachenko, using data from Juno’s JunoCam instrument. JunoCam’s raw images are available here for the public to peruse and enhance.Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE.
Swirling bands of light and dark clouds on Jupiter are seen in this image made by citizen scientists using data from our Juno spacecraft. Each of the alternating light and dark atmospheric bands in this image is wider than Earth, and each rages around Jupiter at hundreds of miles (km) per hour. The lighter areas are regions where gas is rising, and the darker bands are regions where gas is sinking. This image was acquired on May 19, 2017 from about 20,800 miles (33,400km) above Jupiter’s cloud tops.
Our Juno spacecraft has just released some exciting new science from its first close flyby of Jupiter!
In case you don’t know, the Juno spacecraft entered orbit around the gas giant on July 4, 2016…about a year ago. Since then, it has been collecting data and images from this unique vantage point.
Juno is in a polar orbit around Jupiter, which means that the majority of each orbit is spent well away from the gas giant. But once every 53 days its trajectory approaches Jupiter from above its north pole, where it begins a close two-hour transit flying north to south with its eight science instruments collecting data and its JunoCam camera snapping pictures.
Space Fact: The download of six megabytes of data collected during the two-hour transit can take one-and-a-half days!
Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments are helping us get a better understanding of the processes happening on Jupiter. These new results portray the planet as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world that we still need to study and unravel its mysteries.
So what did this first science flyby tell us? Let’s break it down…
1. Tumultuous Cyclones
Juno’s imager, JunoCam, has showed us that both of Jupiter’s poles are covered in tumultuous cyclones and anticyclone storms, densely clustered and rubbing together. Some of these storms as large as Earth!
These storms are still puzzling. We’re still not exactly sure how they formed or how they interact with each other. Future close flybys will help us better understand these mysterious cyclones.
Seen above, waves of clouds (at 37.8 degrees latitude) dominate this three-dimensional Jovian cloudscape. JunoCam obtained this enhanced-color picture on May 19, 2017, at 5:50 UTC from an altitude of 5,500 miles (8,900 kilometers). Details as small as 4 miles (6 kilometers) across can be identified in this image.
An even closer view of the same image shows small bright high clouds that are about 16 miles (25 kilometers) across and in some areas appear to form “squall lines” (a narrow band of high winds and storms associated with a cold front). On Jupiter, clouds this high are almost certainly comprised of water and/or ammonia ice.
2. Jupiter’s Atmosphere
Juno’s Microwave Radiometer is an instrument that samples the thermal microwave radiation from Jupiter’s atmosphere from the tops of the ammonia clouds to deep within its atmosphere.
Data from this instrument suggest that the ammonia is quite variable and continues to increase as far down as we can see with MWR, which is a few hundred kilometers. In the cut-out image below, orange signifies high ammonia abundance and blue signifies low ammonia abundance. Jupiter appears to have a band around its equator high in ammonia abundance, with a column shown in orange.
Why does this ammonia matter? Well, ammonia is a good tracer of other relatively rare gases and fluids in the atmosphere…like water. Understanding the relative abundances of these materials helps us have a better idea of how and when Jupiter formed in the early solar system.
This instrument has also given us more information about Jupiter’s iconic belts and zones. Data suggest that the belt near Jupiter’s equator penetrates all the way down, while the belts and zones at other latitudes seem to evolve to other structures.
3. Stronger-Than-Expected Magnetic Field
Prior to Juno, it was known that Jupiter had the most intense magnetic field in the solar system…but measurements from Juno’s magnetometer investigation (MAG) indicate that the gas giant’s magnetic field is even stronger than models expected, and more irregular in shape.
At 7.766 Gauss, it is about 10 times stronger than the strongest magnetic field found on Earth! What is Gauss? Magnetic field strengths are measured in units called Gauss or Teslas. A magnetic field with a strength of 10,000 Gauss also has a strength of 1 Tesla.
Juno is giving us a unique view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before. For example, data from the spacecraft (displayed in the graphic above) suggests that the planet’s magnetic field is “lumpy”, meaning its stronger in some places and weaker in others. This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action (where the motion of electrically conducting fluid creates a self-sustaining magnetic field) closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen. Juno’s orbital track is illustrated with the black curve.
4. Sounds of Jupiter
Juno also observed plasma wave signals from Jupiter’s ionosphere. This movie shows results from Juno’s radio wave detector that were recorded while it passed close to Jupiter. Waves in the plasma (the charged gas) in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter have different frequencies that depend on the types of ions present, and their densities.
Mapping out these ions in the jovian system helps us understand how the upper atmosphere works including the aurora. Beyond the visual representation of the data, the data have been made into sounds where the frequencies and playback speed have been shifted to be audible to human ears.
5. Jovian “Southern Lights”
The complexity and richness of Jupiter’s “southern lights” (also known as auroras) are on display in this animation of false-color maps from our Juno spacecraft. Auroras result when energetic electrons from the magnetosphere crash into the molecular hydrogen in the Jovian upper atmosphere. The data for this animation were obtained by Juno’s Ultraviolet Spectrograph.
During Juno’s next flyby on July 11, the spacecraft will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system – one that every school kid knows – Jupiter’s Great Red Spot! If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno.