Juno has sent back its first image of Jupiter since it reached the giant planet’s orbit, showing our solar system’s largest planet and three of its moons.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft is full of interesting scientific tools to help measure the planet’s auroras, and learn more about Jupiter’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
However, for the average fan, JunoCam is the device that will reveal most, with images of Jupiter from beneath its obscuring clouds taken during Juno’s 37 orbits of the planet soon to emerge.
So, consider the image released by NASA today (13 July) as the first of many, and one that will look pretty limited in just a matter of weeks.
The image shows atmospheric features on Jupiter, including the famous Great Red Spot, and three of the massive planet’s four largest moons – Io, Europa and Ganymede, from left to right in the image.
“This scene from JunoCam indicates it survived its first pass through Jupiter’s extreme radiation environment without any degradation and is ready to take on Jupiter,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator on the mission. “We can’t wait to see the first view of Jupiter’s poles.”
Juno took the image when it began its 53.4-day orbit of Jupiter, however, a final engine burn is expected to bring that down to a mere 14-day orbit soon.
“JunoCam will continue to take images as we go around in this first orbit,” said Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator. “The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27 when Juno makes its next close pass to the planet.”
JunoCam was included on the spacecraft specifically for purposes of public engagement, with NASA not considering it “one of the mission’s science instruments”.
Main Jupiter image via Shutterstock