News ID: 194902
Published: 0537 GMT June 17, 2017

See the latest stunning views of Jupiter

See the latest stunning views of Jupiter

Once every 53 days, Jupiter pulls Juno close. Locked in orbit since July 2016, the spacecraft has made five close flybys of the planet so far.

More than 1,300 Earths could fit inside Jupiter, but Juno takes only two hours to zip from pole to pole, reported.

Juno took a sequence of 14 enhanced-color images during its north-to-south trek on May 19.

Each image’s width corresponds to the width of the field of view of JunoCam, Juno’s visible light camera.

As the spacecraft zooms closer, to about 3,400 kilometers above the cloud tops, less total area of Jupiter can be seen, but more details emerge.

Turbulent clouds, for example, signal massive tempests along the equator. New data from the mission reveal that near the equator, ammonia rises from unexpectedly deep in the Jovian atmosphere.

Such upwelling might fuel storms like these, but it’s too early for scientists to tell. And what look like pinpricks of light across the entire south tropical zone are actually 50-kilometer-wide cloud towers.

Found high in Jupiter’s atmosphere, these clouds are probably made of ice crystals.

Juno mission leader Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said, “It’s snowing on Jupiter, and we’re seeing how it works. Or it could be hail.”

Either way, it’s not snow or hail as we know it. The precipitation is probably mostly ammonia ice, but there may be water ice, too.

Juno doesn’t have eyes only for Jupiter. Sometimes the spacecraft stargazes, too.

On its initial science flyby last August, Juno captured the first image of Jupiter’s main ring seen from the inside looking out.

In the background of the newly released image, Betelgeuse, in the constellation Orion, peeks above the gauzy band, and the three stars of Orion’s belt glint from the bottom right.

Heidi Becker, leader of Juno’s radiation monitoring team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said, “Taken with Juno’s star-tracking navigation camera, the shot reveals that heaven looks the same to us from Jupiter.”

These rendezvous won’t go on forever, but they could last into 2019.

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