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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.

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Juno mission reveals surprises at Jupiter

Juno view of Jupiter south pole
This image shows Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles. The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles in diameter. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Betsy Asher Hall / Gervasio Robles)

NASA’s Juno orbiter has been sending back stunning pictures of Jupiter for months, but now the mission’s scientists are sharing their first peer-reviewed findings about the planet’s previously unseen polar storms and powerful magnetic field.

“The results from Juno’s initial close passes of Jupiter are understanding of this gas giant,” the Juno science team, led by principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute, reports in the journal Science.

Bolton and his colleagues laid out those results today in a set of papers published by Science and Geophysical Research Letters, and in a NASA teleconference.

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Hubble telescope gives Jupiter its close-up

Jupiter as seen by Hubble
As Jupiter made its nearest approach to Earth in a year, the Hubble Space Telescope viewed the solar system’s largest planet in all of its up-close glory. This picture was taken on April 3 from a distance of 415 million miles. (STScI / ESA / NASA / GSFC Photo / A. Simon)

Jupiter is as close as it’ll get to Earth this year, and the Hubble Space Telescope took advantage of the opportunity with a stunning picture that shows off the giant planet’s best-known spots.

Astronomer Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center arranged to have Hubble trained on the hemisphere that includes Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and another whirling storm to the south, dubbed “Red Spot Jr.” You can also see white spots speckling the planet’s cloud tops.

The interplay of orbits for Jupiter and Earth brought our two planets just 415 million miles apart, which means Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 could pick up features as small as 80 miles across.

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Amateurs create a video journey to Jupiter

Jupiter video
The Great Red Spot from the “Journey to Jupiter” video. (Peter Rosén et al. via YouTube)

While NASA’s Juno orbiter is giving Jupiter its close-up, a new video based on more than 1,000 images taken by 91 amateur astronomers provides the wide-angle view.

“A Journey to Jupiter” shows how bands of clouds, great red spots and pearl-colored storms whirl in different directions around the giant planet.

The images were captured between December 2014 and March 2015, then collated and remapped into cylindrical projections, then color-corrected and seamlessly stitched together, and then spiffed up with additional space imagery and a soothing soundtrack.

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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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