Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

Juno gives a stunning first look at Jupiter from orbit

Sammy Stanley | 14 July, 2016, 00:00

Juno entered orbit around Jupiter last week after a five-year journey.

"We had to turn all our lovely instruments off to help ensure a successful Jupiter orbit insertion on 4 July", said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute. Now, they will wait to view Jupiter's poles. Currently, Juno is moving away from the planet and going toward the more distant parts of a highly elliptical.

Enjoy the JunoCam images while you can.

"Welcome to Jupiter", declared mission control. The real experiments will start in October.

Juno should circle the planet 37 times before finally making a death plunge in 2018, to prevent the spacecraft from causing damage to any of Jupiter's icy moons, which NASA hopes to explore one day for signs of life.

Seeing Jupiter half full is pretty wonderful to a seasoned astronomer like me.

Previous missions to Jupiter have revealed stunning views of the planet's thick clouds and vivid auroras. After a stunning orbital entry on July 4 - the probe, which had been traveling at upward of 125,000 miles per hour, managed to slow down and enter orbit within a second and a centimeter of its target - Juno's instruments are back online.

NASA plans to take better high-resolution photos of Jupiter in the coming weeks and months ahead with the first photo planned for August 27 when Juno will make its next close pass over the gas giant.

The snapshot has relieved scientists who anxious that Jupiter's radioactive environment may have damaged Juno's equipment, the BBC reported. The mission team is now turning on all the probe's instruments to check their status. Once the spacecraft loops back in, we will get our first close-up pictures of the gas giant. Juno will also study how deep the trademark Great Red Spot goes and why the centuries-old storm has shrunk in recent years. Juno's goal over the next 18 months will be to try to understand what makes Jupiter tick.

The spacecraft carries nine instruments to map the planet.

The trek to Jupiter, spanning almost five years and 1.8 billion miles (2.8 billion kilometers), took Juno on a tour of the inner solar system followed by a swing past Earth that catapulted it beyond the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

It highlights Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot and features three of the planet's four largest moons: lo, Europa and Ganymede from left to right in the image. "The fact it's a handsome image is already a good thing".

Juno's visible-light camera was turned on six days after it fired its main engine and placed itself into orbit around the largest planetary inhabitant of our solar system.

NASA says that this initial image indicates that Juno has survived its first close encounter with Jupiter without the local radiation degrading its systems.

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