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Some of the spectacular images from NASA’s Juno probe mission to Jupiter

Back in 2011, NASA launched an ambitious probe mission to study Jupiter; that extraordinarily massive ball of swirling gases orbiting the sun as the next stop after Mars.

It’s so massive, in fact, that it has pulled the Sun’s barycenter of of the Sun-Jupiter pair 743,000 km from its core. Since the Sun’s radius is only 696,000 km, that means that the gravitational pull of Jupiter is so extreme that it has literally wrenched the center of mass between the Sun and Jupiter 47,000 km above the Sun’s surface! In other words, Jupiter doesn’t really orbit the Sun like the other, smaller planets as much as the Sun and Jupiter both orbit one another (but with the caveat that the center of that orbit is still much closer to the Sun than it is to Jupiter.)

After a long journey involving a gravitational slingshot (courtesy of the planets of the inner solar system) to pick up speed, the Juno probe entered Jupiter’s orbit in July, 2016 and set about its mission mapping Jupiter’s gravity, mapping the magnetic fields, studying the atmosphere, etc., and (of course) taking spectacular images.

And the images of Jupiter really are spectacular. You’ll find some of the highlights from the mission (so far) below. Incidentally, all these images (and others) are freely available to the public at  www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam.

Jupiters north pole. Enhanced color image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)
Juno's south pole
This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s south pole and its swirling atmosphere was created by citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)
This image, taken by the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft, highlights a swirling storm just south of one of the white oval storms on Jupiter. Enhanced color image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major
NASA’s Juno spacecraft skimmed the upper wisps of Jupiter’s atmosphere when JunoCam snapped this image on Feb. 2 at 5:13 a.m. PT (8:13 a.m. ET), from an altitude of about 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) above the giant planet’s swirling cloudtops. Enhanced color image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko
This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian “galaxy” of swirling storms. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko
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. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko

 

 

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