The Juno mission is giving us an unparalleled understanding of what lies beneath the clouds of Jupiter and the internal machinations of the gas giant. It is also providing us with extraordinary views of the planet and citizen scientists have managed to process these snaps into true works of art.
The latest one released by NASA depicts a storm in the northern polar belt region of the planet. It was snapped by Juno on December 16, 2017, when the spacecraft was orbiting just 8,800 kilometers (5,600 miles) from the tops of Jupiter's clouds at a latitude of 38.4 degrees north.
The processing of the image was performed by citizen scientist Björn Jónsson using the raw data collected by the probe’s JunoCam imager. He removed the effects of global illumination, sharpened the features, and increased the contrast and color. The final result shows the flowing clouds of Jupiter meandering in cappuccino-colored swirls.
This photo is just one of the images taken by Juno during its latest flyby, the tenth since it begun orbiting Jupiter in June 2016. The primary mission consists of 14 flybys and will conclude this July. Future observations will depend on the mission getting extended.
Juno’s sophisticated suite of instruments, including the JunoCam, was designed to help us understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Specifically, the spacecraft will measure the planet's water content, which will clarify which planetary formation theory is correct or maybe even suggest that we need a completely new framework.
The analysis of the atmosphere, measuring composition, temperature, and cloud motion is another cornerstone of the mission, and its flyby of the planet’s signature Great Red Spot gave us the best look into this gigantic storm. The craft is also mapping the magnetic and gravitational fields of Jupiter. Armed with these maps, planetary scientists hope to be able to reconstruct the internal structure of the planet.
The future of the mission will be decided after the next budget proposal, but until then, the craft will continue to fly over the planet every 53 days. The next close approach of Juno will happen on February 7.