NASA latest project, Juno, shared its in-orbit view of Jupiter, after its arrival on July 4. Juno’s visible light camera was turned on six days after the spacecraft arrived in the orbit for precautions over radioactivity.

The image released on Tuesday showed Jupiter and three of its largest moons, Io, Europa, and Ganymede, while other photos with high-resolution of the gas giant Jupiter are expected within the next month, according to a press release by NASA.

Juno will unlock many of Jupiter’s secrets. One of them is the abundance of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere, a critical test of planet formation theory. Credit: NASA

“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,” commented Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “We cannot wait to see the first view of Jupiter’s poles.”

The published photo was taken on Sunday when Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter, on the outbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit. It showed some of the most outstanding atmospheric features, the press release stated.

According to Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator from the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona, Juno will continue to take photos as it goes around in the orbit. The first high-resolution image will be taken on August when the spacecraft makes its next close pass to Jupiter, he added.

A wider context

Juno’s camera is a visible-light color device which is designed to capture quality pictures of the target planet, its poles and cloud tops. The results of this exploration with the device will provide a comprehensive view that could add up to the information collected from other instruments also in Juno.

The camera itself is not considered one of the mission’s science instruments, NASA said. The Juno team is currently working to place all images taken with the JunoCam on the mission’s website, so all people interested in the project will be able to access it.

Mighty Jupiter

Juno made a successful enter to Jupiter’s orbit after almost a five-year journey. The confirmation came from the Juno tracking data monitored at the navigation facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” commented Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team the mission they are looking for.”

For the next few months the team plans to perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, last calibration of science instruments and some collections, the team stated in a press release from NASA.

The final science collection is set to begin in October, but the team has figured out a way to collect the required data earlier than expected, Bolton said while commented that that was an outstanding achievement within the researchers.

As for the goal of Juno’s mission, Juno is set to gather data to understand the origin and evolution of the planet by using a suite of nine science instruments. The spacecraft will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere and observe the existent auroras, the team said.

Also, the mission will also help researchers understand how giant planets form and the role those have in assembling the rest of the solar system. As the first example of a giant planet, Jupiter can provide critical data for an overall comprehension of the system being discovered around other stars.

What did a similar project found on Mars?

NASA’s robotic rover, Curiosity, reached its second Martian year in the planet, approximately 687 Earth days. This completed the second cycle of exploration, which recorded environmental patterns through two full cycles of Martian seasons and helped researchers a better picture of the planet, as previously reported by Pulse Headlines.

The new data may assist the team separate seasonal effects from sporadic events to seem less often in the planet. For example, a significant spike in methane in the local atmosphere during the first southern-hemisphere autumn in Gale Crater, Curiosity’s location, was not seen again during the second autumn and was qualified as a sporadic, not regular in the stations, according to a press release from NASA.

“Curiosity’s weather station has made measurements nearly every hour of every day, more than 34 million so far,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The duration is important because it is the second time through the seasons that lets us see repeated patterns.”

The similarity among the seasons of Mars and the ones present on Earth is that both planets have a yearly rhythm of them, but the differences are much more notorious in Mars. It was found that the temperatures between day and night were more extremes in the Red Planet.

Source: NASA