If you’re getting a bit bored of looking at the magnolia walls of your home, then avert your gaze to this image of Jupiter. The swirling storms in the planet’s North Pole were captured by NASA’s Juno mission during its 25th close flyby of Jupiter on February 17, 2020. Snapped at around 25,120 kilometers (15,610 miles) above the planet’s cloud tops and at a latitude of 71 degrees North, Juno’s onboard camera (the aptly named JunoCam) has provided us with yet another insight into the tumultuous northern region of the planet.
The sharp-eyed amongst you may have already spotted one of the more notable features of the image: the two long, thin bands running from the bottom to the top of the image. These are streaks of haze particles, floating at a high-altitude above the underlying cloud features. Although previously observed by Juno, as well as by other interplanetary missions, scientists don’t conclusively know what these hazes are made of or how they form.
It was once suggested that these high polar hazes are produced by magnetospheric particles that travel along Jupiter’s magnetic field lines and bombard the atmosphere in the Polar Regions. Others have speculated that, as two jet streams envelop either side of the narrow bands of haze, the air currents may play a part in their formation.
The JunoCam imager has provided us with many extraordinary views of Jupiter since it arrived at the largest planet in our Solar System back in 2016. Working alongside other instruments on the spacecraft, including a magnetometer and an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph (UVS), the Juno mission aims to tell us more about the origin, interior, atmosphere, and magnetosphere of the gas giant.
One of its latest discoveries was of the water content of Jupiter’s equatorial atmosphere – a figure much greater than what NASA’s Galileo probe measured over 20 years ago. The spacecraft will continue to orbit Jupiter, performing close flybys every 53 days, until the craft will plunge into the planet’s atmosphere in July 2021.
You can find more raw images from JunoCam to peruse, and even process, on the Mission Juno website.