Juno snaps first stunning close-up image of Jupiter after flyby

29 Aug 2016

After much anticipation, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has completed its first flyby of the gas giant Jupiter, with news that its array of scientific instruments has captured “intriguing early data”.

It has taken more than five years to get there, but Juno has finally completed its first orbit of the largest planet in our solar system, ahead of a long and detailed mission.

NASA announced that on 27 August Juno successfully completed its first orbit of Jupiter, ahead of 35 more planned excursions, with its closest approach made at 1.44pm UTC.

At this point, Juno passed about 4,200km above the swirling clouds of the planet at a speed of 208,000kph in what will be the closest approach it will make during its main mission.

While the reams of scientific data expected to be generated by this mission will be gradually released over time, until then we can enjoy the first stunning glimpse of Jupiter taken by the JunoCam.

Jupiter Juno

Jupiter’s north polar region is coming into view as NASA’s Juno spacecraft approaches the giant planet. This view of Jupiter was taken on 27 August, when Juno was 703,000 kilometres away. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

‘We are getting some intriguing early data’

As impressive as this newly-released shot is, NASA said that a handful of other images from JunoCam will be released over the coming weeks, including the highest-resolution views of the Jovian atmosphere and the first glimpse of Jupiter’s north and south poles.

The vast quantities of scientific data that will be generated by Juno’s array of scientific instruments will also be of great interest to researchers in the weeks and months ahead, with early readings already piquing their interest.

“We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of the Juno mission.

“It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us.”

Jupiter illustration via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic