On July 10, NASA’s Juno flew over Jupiter’s best-known feature, the Great Red Spot and researchers and citizen scientists have been burning the midnight oil to bring us the first processed images taken by the spacecraft.
"For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter's Great Red Spot," Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement. "Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm. It will take us some time to analyze all the data from not only JunoCam but Juno's eight science instruments, to shed some new light on the past, present and future of the Great Red Spot."
All of Juno’s sophisticated science suite of instruments are working perfectly. The probe can measure magnetic fields, gravitational differences, and energetic particles. It can also observe the planet in microwaves, which allows researchers to peer through Jupiter’s clouds and work out how they work.
And if the scientific work wasn’t already enough, the optical camera known as JunoCam has been able to snap some incredible views of the Solar System’s biggest planet. So it’s understandable seeing the excitement and anticipation for the full set of photos that will hopefully come out soon.
"These highly-anticipated images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot are the 'perfect storm' of art and science. With data from Voyager, Galileo, New Horizons, Hubble and now Juno, we have a better understanding of the composition and evolution of this iconic feature," said Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science. "We are pleased to share the beauty and excitement of space science with everyone."
When it was last measured in April, the Great Red Spot was 16,350 kilometers (10,159 miles) in diameter or about 1.3 times as wide as our planet. The Spot is a terrific and terrifying hurricane. Understanding the Jovian atmosphere is a core scientific object for Juno, and it might help us explain how it can produce such a tremendous storm.
The images from JunoCam are available in a raw format online and astrophotography lovers have used their skills to bring the black and white pictures to glorious technicolor.
"I have been following the Juno mission since it launched," said Jason Major, a JunoCam citizen scientist and a graphic designer from Warwick, Rhode Island. "It is always exciting to see these new raw images of Jupiter as they arrive. But it is even more thrilling to take the raw images and turn them into something that people can appreciate. That is what I live for."
Juno will pass over Jupiter again on September 1.