Check out the breathtaking new images of Jupiter’s clouds and its volcanic moon just returned from NASA’s Juno spacecraft

On July 5, 2022, NASA’s Juno spacecraft made its last spectacular flyby of the giant planet Jupiter and its closest images of its moon Io.

In the days since he was fired its raw image data over 461 million miles/742 million kilometers via NASA’s Deep Space Network.

This data includes valuable new images of Jupiter’s moon Io, the most volcanic body in the entire solar system, seen just 86,000 kilometers away. So far, that’s closer than the spacecraft got. This follows another close encounter with Io in April 2022 when Juno came within 66,000 miles/106,000 kilometers.

The images are from JunoCam camera aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which launched in 2011 and reached Jupiter in 2016. Since then, the bus-sized spacecraft has made 43 orbits around the giant planet, producing each breathtaking images.

The spacecraft is in a highly elliptical orbit around Jupiter, coming within a few thousand miles above the cloud tops on its closest approach.

From the gravitational data, a new study was collected just published saw researchers map the core of the giant planet. It revealed a large amount of heavy material, which was unexpected. This hints that Jupiter may have devoured planetesimals – the building blocks of the solar system – to aid its growth.

More than 60,000 images from this dataset are also used by the Jovian Vortex Hunter project, a new citizen science project on the Zooniverse platform led by researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with support from NASA.

It allows volunteers to play an important role in helping scientists learn more about Jupiter’s atmosphere. Citizen scientists can help astrophysicists categorize tens of thousands of stunning images taken Juno spaceship with just a web browser.

Citizen scientists are asked to identify atmospheric vortices, clouds that have a round or elliptical shape, like hurricanes. Jupiter’s atmosphere includes hydrogen and helium but contains a wide variety of clouds of different shapes and sizes.

“There are so many images that it would take our small team several years to review them all,” said Ramanakumar Sankar, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who directs the project.

“We need the public’s help to identify which images have swirls, where they are, and how they appear,” Sankar said. “With the catalog of features (specifically eddies) in place, we can study the physics behind how these features form and how they relate to the structure of the atmosphere, particularly under clouds, where we don’t cannot observe them directly.”

Information from citizen scientists will not only be used to study Jupiter. It will also help write a computer algorithm that could speed up future identification of Jupiter’s atmospheric features by combining computer help with human expertise.

Juno will complete another perijove of Jupiter in August. In December 2023 and January 2024, Juno will arrive just 932 miles/1,500 kilometers from Io.

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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