NASA's Juno spacecraft took a sequence of time-lapse photos of Jupiter, but the pictures were taken at an angle that shows a rarely seen side of the biggest planet in the Solar System.
Juno, which may see its two-year mission of observing Jupiter extended, reminded the world that the south pole of Jupiter is blue, which is very different from the colors usually associated with the planet.
Juno Takes Pictures Of Jupiter's Blue South Pole
The Juno spacecraft took a series of images capturing the cloud patterns in the south pole of Jupiter, which many may not know is colored blue.
Jupiter is remembered as a planet with colors mostly made up of a mixture of brown, red, and off-white. These colors are often seen in images taken of the planet, alongside its iconic Great Red Spot. Pictures of Jupiter's south pole, however, are comparably too few, which is probably why it is not well known that the planet also has the color blue somewhere on its surface.
The time-lapse photos were taken during Juno's 11th close flyby of the planet on Feb. 7, when the spacecraft was about 85,000 to 125,000 miles from the tops of the clouds of Jupiter.
NASA noted that Gerald Eichstädt, a citizen scientist, processed the images from data in the JunoCam imager, which allows anybody to access the raw images taken by the Juno spacecraft.
Juno's Mission May Be Extended
NASA launched the Juno spacecraft back in 2011, but it only reached Jupiter in July 2016. It started its two-year mission of observing Jupiter immediately.
In a few months, NASA will have to decide whether to end Juno's mission or extend it with new goals. All signs point to the latter, as the spacecraft was not even expected to last beyond February 2018 due to expected radiation exposure. The radiation was found to be at lower levels than expected.
"The Juno spacecraft and instruments are continuing to operate in orbit around Jupiter and are providing us with fascinating science data and images. We have learned that Jupiter is more complex than we anticipated and have been genuinely surprised by some of our findings," NASA said, possibly hinting that the decision to extend Juno's mission on Jupiter will not yet come to an end soon.
Juno has sent back massive amounts of data regarding Jupiter that has allowed scientists on Earth to learn more about the planet's composition. It will be a shame to pull the plug on Juno after just two years around the planet, and it appears that NASA is now thinking the same thing.