A NASA exploratory spacecraft sent to Jupiter in 2016 has captured breathtaking images of the cyclones that characterise the giant planet’s Northern pole. The images captured by the Juno mission utilised the spacecraft’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument.
The image below was released by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is a composite image created using infrared data collected by the Juno spacecraft. The image clearly shows the now iconic cyclonic pattern over Jupiter’s North pole. The huge central cycle is surrounded by eight smaller cyclones ranging in size from 4,000 to 4,600 kilometres (2,500 to 2,900 miles) in diameter.
The light yellow areas of the image are thinner clouds radiating temperatures of around -13°Celsius (9° Fahrenheit). The darker areas represent thicker clouds radiating temperatures of around -118°Celsius (181° Fahrenheit).
The Juno mission was launched in August 2011 and following deep space manoeuvres in 2012 and a gravity assist Earth flyby in 2013, entered into orbit around Jupiter in July 2016. The mission has produced both unexpected and amazing results collecting data that will takes years for scientists to fully analyse.
“Juno’s unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries,” said mission principal investigator, Scott Bolton. “Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter.”
Juno’s current mission will be scheduled to run through July 2018. Once the spacecraft’s primary mission comes to an end, the team will likely seek the budget to extend it through to 2019.