NASA's Juno has sent back breathtaking new photos of Jupiter, including one that shows dramatic cloud formations on the gas giant's northern hemisphere.
The spacecraft took the new photo during its 18th flyby of the planet on Feb. 12. It is part of the ongoing stream of new photos that Juno has been beaming back to Earth since arriving at Jupiter in 2016.
Jupiter's Storm Creates Cloud Art
The image shows swirling clouds surrounding a circular storm within the jet stream region called "Jet N6." According to NASA, Juno was only about 13,000 kilometers away from the gas giant's cloud tops when it took the incredible photo.
Kevin M. Gill, a citizen scientist, color-enhanced the image sent by the spacecraft to create the dramatic new photo of Jupiter. The image has also been rotated 100 degrees to the right.
NASA made raw images from Juno available to the public in order to encourage amateur astrophotographers to download and enhance them. Many have participated by performing color reconstruction of the photos or by highlighting a particular feature. The enhanced photos were uploaded back to a dedicated website for the Juno mission.
Juno's Observation Of Jupiter
NASA launched Juno on Aug. 5, 2011, to investigate the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. Its principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of the gas giant and unlock secrets of the role Jupiter and other similar titans had played in the formation of the rest of the solar system.
The spacecraft is also equipped with instruments that can measure the amount of water and ammonia in the planet's deep atmosphere, map its intense magnetic field, observe its auroras, and detect the existence of a solid core.
"We have already rewritten the textbooks on how Jupiter's atmosphere works and on the complexity and asymmetry of its magnetic field," stated Scott Bolton, the principal investigator behind Juno.
The spacecraft will make a total of 32 flybys of Jupiter. In June, NASA approved an additional 41 months of the mission to fulfill its scientific goals.
"The second half should provide the detail that we can use to refine our understanding of the depth of Jupiter's zonal winds, the generation of its magnetic field, and the structure and evolution of its interior," added Bolton.
Juno's probe of Jupiter is expected to end in 2022, at which it will self-destruct by hurling itself into the planet and burn in its atmosphere.