NASA Juno finally uploads photos of Jupiter and its Moon after the radiation spike

NASA Juno finally uploads photos of Jupiter and its Moon after the radiation spike

NASA Juno finally uploads photos of Jupiter and its Moon after the radiation spike

More images have been returned to Earth from NASA’s Juno spacecraft that show the beauty of giant planet Jupiter and its small lava-covered moon Io.

As the solar-powered spacecraft completed its 47thperijove) of Jupiter tried to return its science data to NASA on December 14, but the downlink was disrupted.

After initially returning only one image – its volcanic moon Io – the rest of Io and Jupiter’s raw data surfaced online on January 4. Since then, the team of image processors – all of them dedicated volunteer “citizen scientists” – have posted some spectacular finished images online.

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According to NASA, the delay was caused by intense radiation from part of Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory restarted the onboard computer and put the spacecraft into safe mode.

Juno’s images of I0 – the most volcanic body in the solar system – were taken when Juno was 40,000 miles away. The moon is believed to have an underground magma ocean. Just before Juno approached Io, an outbreak of volcanic activity began.

Io is in constant gravitational tug of war with Jupiter and other large moons, to the point where it actually changes shape during its 42-hour orbit. The constant stretching and squeezing is believed to cause “tidal heating” due to friction.

This Io flyby was the first of nine Juno flybys over the next few years, two of which will be just 930 miles/1,500 kilometers away.

“The team is really excited that Juno’s extended mission includes exploring Jupiter’s moons. With each close flyby, we were able to pick up a ton of new information,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The Juno sensors are designed to study Jupiter, but we were blown away by how well they could do a double job of observing Jupiter’s moons.”

Juno was launched in 2011 and reached Jupiter in 2016. Since then, it has made 47 close flybys of the planet’s polar regions, with the last one on December 15, 2022. It included the first of nine flybys of Io, the most volcanic body in the solar system. —two of them at a distance of only 930 miles/1,500 kilometers.

Its two close flybys will take place on December 30, 2023 and February 3, 2024. During them, Juno will study the volcanoes of Io and the interaction of volcanic eruptions with Jupiter’s powerful magnetosphere and the northern lights.

The spacecraft is in a highly elliptical orbit, making it approach Jupiter’s moons and the planet’s polar regions only once every five or six weeks, which is when it switches on its two-megapixel camera.

Juno’s mission is to study the composition, magnetic field and magnetosphere of Jupiter, measuring the water present in its atmosphere and winds. They discovered how Jupiter’s atmosphere works and revealed the complexity and asymmetry of its magnetic field.

Juno also revealed the size of Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot”, which extends over 200 miles/350 kilometers. The largest storm in the solar system lies 22 degrees south of Jupiter’s equator and has been raging since at least 1830. Its diameter makes it almost twice the size of Earth.

The spacecraft also studied Jupiter’s “Great Blue Spot”, an isolated patch of intense magnetic field near the planet’s equator.

In October 2021, new discoveries from the Juno mission provided the first 3D look at how the giant planet’s “beautiful and violent atmosphere” works beneath the upper cloud layers.

It has also made close flybys of the moons of Jupiter, Europa and Ganymede, and has so far transmitted more than three terabits of science data.

However, the spaceship is now on an exciting extended mission. After completing Jupiter’s default five-year 37-orbit survey in November 2021, Juno has been given a new lease of life by 2025.

Although it can be extended if not, it’s the 76th and final spacecraft perijove will take place on September 15, 2025, when it will make a “death dive” into the gas giant. This will prevent an accidental collision and possible contamination of one of Jupiter’s moons.

Juno is the ninth spacecraft to take a picture of Jupiter, the others being Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Galileo Orbiter and Galileo Probe, Ulysses and Cassini.

Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter, perijove 48, will take place on January 22, 2023.

I wish you clear skies and wide eyes.

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