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Juno’s Jupiter snapshots show lots of spots

A photo of Jupiter’s south polar region, captured by the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno orbiter on Feb. 2, reveals an arc of white oval storms. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Roman Tkachenko © CC BY)
A photo of Jupiter’s south polar region, captured by the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno orbiter on Feb. 2, reveals white oval storms. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Roman Tkachenko © CC BY)

We all know Jupiter has a Great Red Spot, but the latest pictures from NASA’s Juno orbiter turn the spotlight on some nifty little white spots near the giant planet’s south pole.

The white oval storms may look like mere pockmarks on JunoCam’s profile, but they’re actually giant cyclones that are roughly as wide as the planet Mercury (3,000 miles or so).

“Jovian Antarctica” was one of the targets for Juno’s fourth close flyby of Jupiter on Feb. 2. The half-shadowed view of Jupiter’s disk was taken when the solar-powered probe was about 47,600 miles above the cloud tops.

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Jumping Jupiter! What a view from Juno!

Jupiter as seen by Juno
The JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno probe snapped this shot of Jupiter’s northern latitudes on Dec. 11, 2016, as the orbiter performed a close flyby. The spacecraft was 10,300 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS Photo / Gerald Eichstaedt / John Rogers)

If you need an interplanetary pick-me-up, this picture of Jupiter from NASA’s Juno orbiter could be just the ticket.

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NASA’s Juno orbiter reboots itself at Jupiter

Juno at Jupiter
An artist’s conception shows the Juno orbiter during a close flyby of Jupiter. (Credit: NASA)

NASA says its Juno orbiter experienced a reboot of its onboard computer late Oct. 18, just as it was getting ready to collect data during a close flyby of Jupiter.

As a result, Juno’s instruments were off during the flyby, and the data went uncollected.

“At the time safe mode was entered, the spacecraft was more than 13 hours from its closest approach to Jupiter,” Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said today in a news release. “We were still quite a ways from the planet’s more intense radiation belts and magnetic fields.”

NASA said the spacecraft restarted successfully and is going through flight software diagnostics. Engineers are trying to pinpoint what set off the reboot.

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Check out Juno’s close encounter with Jupiter

Juno's view of Jupiter
Jupiter’s north polar region is coming into view as NASA’s Juno spacecraft approaches the planet. This view was captured on Aug. 27 from a distance of 437,000 miles (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Ted Stryk).

NASA’s Juno spacecraft made its closest scheduled swing over the cloud tops of the giant planet Jupiter today – and sent back pictures.

The solar-powered probe zoomed about 2,600 miles above the clouds at a speed of 130,000 mph, at 6:44 a.m. PT, NASA said. It was the first close encounter since Juno entered Jovian orbit on July 4, 53 days ago.

“Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned, and Juno is firing on all cylinders,” Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a status update.

Juno had all of its science instruments turned on, plus its JunoCam visible-light imager. Hours after the encounter, NASA released a picture of Jupiter that was snapped during today’s approach from a distance of 437,000 miles. Even closer views are on the way.

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NASA shares Juno’s first orbital view of Jupiter

Jupiter and moons
This view from JunoCam shows Jupiter at far left, with the moons Io, Europa and Ganymede in orbit. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS)

It’s not the closest close-up of Jupiter, but it’s the first view provided by NASA’s Juno probe since it went into orbit around the giant planet on July 4.

The image released today shows Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, as well as the moons Io, Europa and Ganymede, from a distance of 2.7 million miles. The picture was taken by Juno’s visible-light camera at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, shortly after it was turned on in the wake of orbital insertion. At the time, Juno was on the outbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit.

“The scene from JunoCam indicates it survived its first pass through Jupiter’s extreme radiation environment without any degradation and is ready to take on Jupiter,” Scott Bolton, mission principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in today’s image advisory. “We can’t wait to see the first view of Jupiter’s poles.”

JunoCam will continue to capture images as it zooms through its first orbit, but the first high-resolution pictures of Jupiter won’t be taken until Aug. 27, when Juno makes its next close encounter.

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‘Juno, welcome to Jupiter’: Probe goes into orbit

Jupiter and Io
Jupiter and its moon Io show up in the last image taken by the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft before instruments were powered down for orbital insertion. The June 29 picture was taken from a distance of 3.3 million miles from Jupiter. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS)

NASA’s farthest-out solar-powered probe, the Juno spacecraft, successfully entered orbit around Jupiter tonight after a five-year, 1.8 billion-mile cruise through interplanetary space – and many hours’ worth of high tension back on Earth.

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California had to program Juno’s computer in advance to execute a 35-minute rocket engine firing that put the probe in the correct orbit. If anything went wrong, Juno could have zoomed right past Jupiter, and flight controllers couldn’t have done anything about it.

It took 48 minutes for signals to travel from the spacecraft to Earth at the speed of light, which meant no one on Earth knew that the engine burn had even started until 13 minutes after it was over. Mission managers said the engine burn was just 1 second off what was planned.

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Juno mission to Jupiter nears its climax

Image: Juno at Jupiter
An artist’s conception shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter. (Credit: NASA / SwRI)

Everything about NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter is big: the destination (giant planet, duh!), the cost ($1.1 billion), the travel time (five years to cruise 1.8 million miles), even the solar panels (totaling 635 square feet in area, about the size of a one-bedroom apartment).

And one of the biggest things for us Earthlings is that you can use the small screen on your smartphone to watch the mission reach its climax while you’re waiting for the Fourth of July fireworks to begin.

NASA will be providing live video coverage of Juno’s orbital insertion maneuver, starting at 7:30 p.m. PT Monday. Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California expect to hear that the bus-sized spacecraft successfully executed Monday’s key engine burn at 8:53 p.m. PT.

If the engine firing goes wrong, the probe could zoom uselessly past Jupiter, or enter the wrong orbit around the planet. But a successful maneuver will set the stage for 20 months’ worth of meticulously planned orbital observations.

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