NASA's Juno Captures Close-Up Image Of Jupiter's Colorful Clouds

NASA's Juno mission trailer

NASA has released yet another spectacular image of Jupiter's turbulent and colorful clouds, this time offering a closer preview of the gassy atmosphere.

The image has a scale of 5.8 miles per pixel and was taken by the Juno spacecraft while hovering over the planet's northern hemisphere on Dec. 16, 2017 at 9:43 a.m. PST from a distance of 8,292 miles and at a latitude of 48.9 degrees.

Before it was released for public viewing, the image was processed by citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran using data from the spacecraft's built-in JunoCam.

"Jupiter completely fills the image, with only a hint of the terminator (where daylight fades to night) in the upper right corner, and no visible limb (the curved edge of the planet)," described NASA in a statement.

Raw images in the mission's official website reveal other parts of Jupiter, including its southern hemisphere. They are, however, not as colorful and detailed as the processed version.

JunoCam Captures Jupiter's Polar Regions For The First Time

NASA considers giant planets such as Jupiter as "cornerstones of planet formation." Their large masses enable them to form the orbits of objects within their planetary systems, including smaller planets, asteroids, and comets.

Because of this, the space agency believes that Jupiter played a huge role in forming the solar system. By determining its origins, scientists will be able to understand the origin of the solar system as well as how the Earth came to be.

To effectively document the atmospheric conditions of the planet, the spacecraft was fitted with a specialized camera called the JunoCam, which was particularly built to capture images of the planet's polar regions.

"We've had a number of spacecrafts that have flown past Jupiter and taken pictures, taken movies, but they have always been in the equatorial plane and so this mission is the first one that we really get up over the polar regions," explains Dr. Candy Hansen, co-investigator of the JunoCam.

Juno Mission Investigates Jupiter's Atmosphere And Magnetosphere

According to NASA, the Juno Mission seeks to determine the amount of water in Jupiter's atmosphere as well as its temperature, cloud movements, and other properties. It was also sent to map the planet's magnetic and gravity fields, including its magnetosphere near the poles.

The mission was launched on Aug. 5, 2011, and arrived in Jupiter July 2016. It will continue to investigate the planet until July 2018, after completing 12 science orbits. However, the team behind the mission are allowed to propose an extension.

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