Universe Today

Enigmatic Europa gets its extreme closeup from Juno

Over the course of a brief two-hour opportunity, NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured a rare close look at Europa, an ice-covered moon of Jupiter that’s thought to harbor a hidden ocean — and perhaps an extraterrestrial strain of marine life.

Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, but this week brought the best opportunity to look at Europa, which is the prime target for investigation by NASA’s Europa Clipper probe in the 2030s.

On Sept. 29, the orbiter buzzed over the moon’s surface at a velocity in excess of 52,000 mph (23.6 km per second), and at an altitude of 352 kilometers (219 miles).

That’s as close as any spacecraft has come to Europa since the Galileo orbiter’s 218-mile flyby in 2000.


Juno probe delivers holiday treats from Jupiter

Jupiter views from Juno
Enhanced images from NASA’s Juno orbiter show cloud patterns on Jupiter (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Brian Swift / Seán Doran Photos)

Santa Claus isn’t the only one bearing gifts from the north pole at this time of year. NASA’s Juno orbiter also delivered a sackful of presents over the holidays, but from the pole of a different planet: Jupiter.

Every 53 days, the bus-sized spacecraft makes a close encounter with our solar system’s biggest planet, as part of a mission that was launched in 2011 and reached Jupiter in 2016.

Juno’s main mission is to study Jupiter’s magnetic field and gravitational field, to give scientists a deeper understanding of the gas giant’s internal composition. But a visible-light camera called JunoCam was included on the probe, primarily to boost public outreach and education.

The latest encounter, known as Perijove 17, occurred on Dec. 21 and went over Jupiter’s north pole.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Jupiter’s brown spot sparks potty humor

Jupiter cloud system
This cloud formation on Jupiter is called “Mr. Hankey.” (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Kevin M. Gill)

Jupiter’s titanic storms have spawned their share of memorable cloud features, including the Great Red SpotOval BA (a.k.a. Red Jr.) and the now-defunct Baby Red Spot. Now there’s a new spot on the map, nicknamed “Mr. Hankey.”

Mr. Hankey? The jolly cartoon poo made famous in a “South Park” Christmas episode?

Believe it: The longish, brownish storm system was the star of the show during last Thursday’s close encounter involving Jupiter and NASA’s Juno orbiter. In the days since the encounter, known as Perijove 15, the probe has been sending back Junocam’s imagery for processing by a legion of professional and amateur astronomers.

It was Kevin Gill, a software engineer and self-described data wrangler at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who gave the spot its “South Park” sobriquet in a tweet. But if you want to call the scene Jet N4, that’s OK, too.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Enjoy July’s gems from Juno at Jupiter

Jupiter clouds
Jupiter’s clouds swirl in a view captured by NASA’s Juno orbiter during Perijove 14. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran)

NASA’s Juno orbiter made another close pass of Jupiter this week, and that means there’s another crop of stunning pictures embellished by legions of citizen scientists.

Every 53 days, the bus-sized spacecraft reaches the closest point in its orbit around the giant planet.  The latest flyby, known as Perijove 14, took place late July 15 and brought Juno within about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) of the giant planet’s cloud tops.

Juno’s main mission is to measure Jupiter’s magnetic field and gravitational field, and gain insights about its internal composition. But it has a camera called JunoCam that’s specifically designed to provide data for image-processing gurus to work their magic with.

Offerings are being posted on the Juno mission’s website, and on Twitter as well.

Check out a sampling of the top tweets on GeekWire.


Juno mission to Jupiter gets an update

Juno picture of Jupiter
Jupiter shows off its bands of clouds in an image captured during the Juno probe’s Perijove 13 encounter last month. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / David Marriott)

NASA has updated its plans for the Juno mission to Jupiter to support science operations through mid-2021, adding 41 more months to the orbiter’s planned observations. Juno arrived at the giant planet nearly two years ago and has been mapping the giant planet’s magnetic field as well as analyzing its composition.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.


Juno’s new gems highlight Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Jupiter Great Red Spot
A picture from NASA’s Juno orbiter highlights Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. (NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Seán Doran Photo / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There’s a fresh flowering of photos from NASA’s Juno orbiter, and this time they’re highlighting Jupiter’s most famous feature, the Great Red Spot.

The latest load comes from Juno’s close encounter with the giant planet on April 1. It’s known as Perijove 12, because it’s the 12th close-up photo opportunity for the probe’s science mission.

Juno’s main mission is to characterize Jupiter’s magnetic field, gravity field and internal composition, but a camera was added to the scientific payload primarily for outreach purposes. After every perijove session, the raw imagery data is sent back to Earth for professional and amateur astronomers to process.

The images are posted to the Juno mission’s website, and to social-media accounts and Flickr photostreams as well.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Juno pictures put Jupiter fans in 11th heaven

Juno picture of Jupiter
NASA’s Juno probe captured this picture of Jupiter’s swirling storms during a close pass on Feb. 7. (NASA / JPL / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstadt Photo)

NASA’s Juno orbiter has sent back its 11th crop of close-ups from Jupiter, and that means it’s time for another eye-opening, jaw-dropping photo album created by citizen scientists.

Juno flew as close as 2,100 miles above the planet’s cloud tops on Feb. 7 for what’s known as Perijove 11, at the completion of its 10th science orbit.

NASA says this close encounter was a gravity science orientation pass, which means Juno could point its transmitters directly at Earth to downlink data in real time to the Deep Space Network’s radio antenna installation in Goldstone, Calif.

Juno’s primary mission is to study Jupiter’s gravitational and magnetic fields, and get a better sense of the planet’s internal composition. But the spacecraft also has an imaging device known as JunoCam that’s taking pictures primarily for public consumption and science outreach.

Some photo processing mavens have gotten wickedly good at taking NASA’s raw images and making them pop. So, without further ado, check out the latest gems from Jupiter.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Juno probe’s new Jupiter pictures rate a 10

A processed picture from NASA’s Juno orbiter shows Jupiter’s mid-northern temperate belts. Click on the picture for a larger version. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Kevin M. Gill – CC BY 2.0)

It’s been just three days since NASA’s Juno orbiter had its most recent close encounter with Jupiter, but image-processing gurus are already sharing sweet views of the giant planet’s cloud patterns.

The probe was launched in 2011 and arrived at Jupiter on the Fourth of July last year. Since then, its elliptical orbit has been taking it close to the planet’s cloud tops every 54 days — an event known as perijove. Dec. 16’s photo op is known as Perijove 10.

The probe’s primary scientific mission is to study Jupiter’s magnetic field, composition and gravity field, but it also has a camera known as JunoCam that takes closeups for public consumption. JunoCam’s raw images are served up for anyone to process, and some have gotten amazingly good at it.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Juno orbiter delivers more jewels from Jupiter

Jupiter as seen by Juno
Jupiter’s northern hemisphere is featured in this processed view captured by the Juno orbiter’s JunoCam imager during the probe’s close flyby on Oct. 24. (NASA / JPL / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstadt Photo)

Artistic amateur astronomers have started leveraging the latest looks from NASA’s Juno orbiter to produce fresh views of Jupiter, including close-ups of storm swirls that look like pearls.

The raw material was captured on Oct. 24 during Juno’s eighth close-in photo op.

See the highlights on GeekWire.


Juno gets greatest view of Great Red Spot

Juno view of Great Red Spot
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is ready for its close-up in this processed image from NASA’s Juno orbiter. (NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran)

The long-awaited close-ups of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot have arrived from NASA’s Juno orbiter, and they’re spectacular.

Juno has been orbiting the giant planet for more than a year, but last weekend’s flyby was the closest that the probe came to the solar system’s most famous superstorm. The JunoCam imager captured data from as little as 2,200 miles above the cloud tops, and the probe flew directly over the Great Red Spot at a distance of 5,600 miles.

It took a couple of days for the data to be transmitted and distributed, but today, image-processing wizards around the world got their chance to work their magic on the 10,000-mile-wide spot.

Get the full story on GeekWire.