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spaceSpace and Physics

New Jupiter Photos Capture Dramatic Changes In Its Atmosphere

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockAug 30 2018, 13:01 UTC

Time-lapse sequence of Jupiter's northern hemisphere. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstad/Sean Doran

NASA's Jovian mission Juno continues to deliver incredible close-up shots of Jupiter, revealing details in the cloud structure that we have never seen before. Thanks to a couple of passionate citizen scientists, these shots are put together, creating stunning images like this latest one.

Using images from the JunoCam imager, citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran have created a time-lapse sequence of Jupiter’s northern hemisphere. The color-enhanced pictures highlight the striking atmospheric features of the planet.

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Of particular beauty, as well as interest, is the N5-AWO, an anticyclone white oval that can be seen in the first three images, moving from center left to top right. There is also a huge tempest known as the Little Red Spot, visible in the bottom of the first three images. This is one of several features that have the nickname. When a planet has a storm bigger than Earth called the Great Red Spot, all the other storms get less boastful names.

Another beautiful feature in the images is the North Temperate Belt, one of the darker color bands in the atmosphere. The belts are hotter than the whiter regions around them, and they feature gas descending deeper into the planet. The color of the belts is still not exactly understood.

The pictures were snapped on July 16, during Juno’s 14th flyby of the planet as the probe moved from 69 degrees above the Jovian equator to 36 degrees. During this flyby, the altitude of the probe ranged between 6,200 to 25,300 kilometers (3,9000 to 15,700 miles) above the cloud top.  

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Juno’s mission is to study Jupiter’s properties to understand its origin better, map its gravitational and magnetic field, and peer through its dense cloud cover. A tremendous amount of new science has emerged from this collaboration and the work done by citizen scientists, like Eichstädt and Doran, truly captures just how restless and ever-changing the Jovian atmosphere is.

The Juno mission has been extended for another three years and is expected to end with a final flyby on July 30, 2021, in the 35th close encounter between the probe and the gas giant.


spaceSpace and Physics