NASA has released stunning new time-lapse photographs of Jupiter’s South Pole. Captured by Juno spacecraft’s camera during its 11th close flyby of our solar system’s largest planet, the images reveal a shifting cloud pattern. Although the shift in cloud patterns is not easily detectable, one can tell the difference by comparing the extreme left image with the extreme right one.
Juno, launched on August 5, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, entered the gas giant’s orbit on July 4, 2016. The spacecraft will be on mission till July 2018, when it completes 12 science orbits, past which the mission will be reviewed for continuation.
“NASA’s Juno spacecraft took the color-enhanced time-lapse sequence of images during its eleventh close flyby of the gas giant planet on Feb. 7 between 7:21 a.m. and 8:01 a.m. PST (10:21 a.m. and 11:01 a.m. EST). At the time, the spacecraft was between 85,292 to 124,856 miles (137,264 to 200,937 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet with the images centered on latitudes from 84.1 to 75.5 degrees south,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in its official statement.
Once you detect the shift in pattern of clouds, try focusing on the slight variations in each image. These variations indicate not only the motion of clouds but also the motion of Juno spacecraft itself.
The images were processed by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt, using data from the JunoCam. The best part about NASA’s Juno mission is that it makes the raw images available to public to peruse and process into custom images which can even be included in products!
In its 10th flyby, Juno first captured the images of Jupiter’s swirling South Pole. “The ‘empty’ space above and below Jupiter in this color-enhanced image can trick the mind, causing the viewer to perceive our solar system’s largest planet as less colossal than it is. In reality, Jupiter is wide enough to fit 11 Earths across its clouded disk,” Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained in January.
For quite some now, the thing Jupiter is most recognized with is its Great Red Spot. The Juno mission aims to help us know more about the planet and one of its prime objectives is to characterize and explore the three-dimensional structure of Jupiter’s polar magnetosphere and auroras.
Using data and images from this space probe, scientists have already acknowledged the fact that Jupiter is much more than an art work of brown, red and off-white brush strokes. The magnificent images of the Jovian planet’s South Pole prove just that.
Try JunoCam yourself by clicking here!