Juno mission to Jupiter at halfway point

With Jupiter in Sagittarius, its domicile.

By Eleanor Imster in SPACE | December 17, 2018

On December 21, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will make its 16th science pass over the cloud tops of Jupiter, marking the halfway point in the solar-powered spacecraft’s prime mission.

A south tropical disturbance had just passed Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot – and was seen stealing threads of orange haze from the Great Red Spot – in this series of color-enhanced images from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. This sequence of images was taken on April 1, 2018, during the spacecraft’s 12th close flyby of Jupiter. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran..

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This Friday (December 21, 2018) NASA’s Juno spacecraft will be hurtling 3,140 miles (5,053 km) above Jupiter’s cloud tops at 128,802 miles per hour (207,287 km per hour). This will be Juno’s 16th science pass of the gas giant and will mark the solar-powered spacecraft’s halfway point in data collection during its prime mission.

Juno is in a highly-elliptical 53-day orbit around Jupiter. Each orbit includes a close passage over the planet’s cloud deck, where it flies a ground track that extends from Jupiter’s north pole to its south pole.

Jack Connerney is Juno deputy principal investigator from the Space Research Corporation in Annapolis, Maryland. He said in a statement:

With our 16th science flyby, we will have complete global coverage of Jupiter, albeit at coarse resolution, with polar passes separated by 22.5 degrees of longitude.

Over the second half of our prime mission – science flybys 17 through 32 – we will split the difference, flying exactly halfway between each previous orbit. This will provide coverage of the planet every 11.25 degrees of longitude, providing a more detailed picture of what makes the whole of Jupiter tick.

Launched on August 5, 2011, Juno entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Its science collection began in earnest on the August 27, 2016, flyby. During these flybys, Juno’s science instruments probe beneath the planet’s obscuring cloud cover and study Jupiter’s auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, interior structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Here are a few of the great images captured by the spacecraft’s Junocam imager.

Follow the Juno mission on Facebook and Twitter.

Juno captured this stunning Jovian cloudscape on February 7, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 11th close flyby of Jupiter. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this color-enhanced image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill.

Jupiter’s northern circumpolar cyclones are captured in this color-enhanced Juno image, taken September 6, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 15th close flyby of Jupiter. Citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt.

This image was taken on September 6, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 15th close flyby of Jupiter. The version of the image on the left side shows Jupiter in approximate true color, while the same image on the right has been processed to bring out detail close to the terminator and reveals 4 of the 5 southern circumpolar cyclones plus the cyclone in the center. Citizen scientist Björn Jónsson created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Björn Jónsson.

This mosaic combines color-enhanced images taken over Jupiter’s north pole when the lighting was excellent for detecting high bands of haze. The images were taken on April 1, 2018. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and John Rogers created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/John Rogers.

A multitude of bright white “pop-up” storms in this Jupiter cloudscape. This color-enhanced image was taken on October 29, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 16th close flyby of Jupiter. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran.

This Earth-based observation of Jupiter and the South Tropical Disturbance approaching the Great Red Spot was captured on January 26, 2018. Amateur astronomer Christopher Go took and processed this image. Via Christopher Go.

A south tropical disturbance that has just passed Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is captured in this color-enhanced image from the Juno spacecraft. Threads of orange haze are pulled from the Great Red Spot by the turbulence of the south tropical disturbance. The image was taken on April 1, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 12th close flyby of Jupiter. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill.

A long, brown oval known as a “brown barge” in Jupiter’s North North Equatorial Belt is captured in this color-enhanced image, taken September 6, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 15th close flyby of Jupiter. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill.

A “brown barge” in Jupiter’s South Equatorial Belt is captured in this color-enhanced image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. This color-enhanced image was taken on July 15, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 14th close flyby of Jupiter. Citizen scientist Joaquin Camarena created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Joaquin Camarena.

Detailed structure in the clouds of Jupiter’s South Equatorial Belt brown barge is visible in this color-enhanced image taken on July 15, 2018, as the spacecraft performed its 14th close flyby of the gas giant planet. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill.

Bottom line: On December 21, 2018, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will reach the halfway point in the solar-powered spacecraft’s prime mission.

ELEANOR IMSTER

Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.

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Artista por destino e investigador de la astrología como lenguaje.
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