10 Amazing Images of Jupiter from the Juno Mission

Juno mission
The Juno spacecraft is shown over the north pole of Jupiter in this artist's concept of the mission. NASA
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Before Juno got There: Voyager's View View of Jupiter

Jupiter
Voyager's best view of the Great Red Spot of Jupitern. NASA

Many spacecraft have visited the giant planet Jupiter over the years, returning many detailed images. When planetary scientists sent the Juno spacecraft to survey Jupiter, it was only the latest in a distinguished series of amazing planetary images. From these images, astronomers finally found evidence of the whirling cyclones, storm belts, and intricate cloud features that were long suspected to exist on Jupiter, but had never been imaged in such intricate detail. To people used to seeing the fantastic images of the planet taken by previous missions and the Hubble Space Telescope, the Juno images provide a whole "new Jupiter" to study.

The Voyager spacecraft provided the very first up-close views of Jupiter when they swept past in the late 1970s. Their job was to image and study the planets, their moons, and rings. Astronomers knew that Jupiter had belts and zones and large storms, and Voyager 1 and 2 provided better views of those features. In particular, they were very interested in the Great Red Spot, a cyclonic storm that has been raging through the upper atmosphere for hundreds of years. Over the years, the spot's color has faded to a faint pink, but its size remains the same and it's just as active as ever. This storm is huge — three Earths could fit in it side-by-side.

Juno was sent with updated cameras and a variety of instruments that could study the magnetic field and gravitational pull of the planet. Its long, looping orbit around the planet kept it protected from the strong radiation environment of the giant planet. 

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Galileo's View of Jupiter

Jupiter and moons from Galileo
Galileo took up-close images of Jupiter during its orbits of the planet in the 1990s. NASA

The Galileo spacecraft orbited Jupiter in the 1990s and provided up-close studies of the planet's clouds, storms, magnetic fields, and its moons. This view of the Great Red spot is shown, along with its four largest moons (from left to right): Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io. 

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Juno on Approach to Jupiter

Juno sees Jupiter from a distance
Jupiter as seen from Juno spacecraft about a week before it arrived at the planet. NASA

The Juno mission arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, after taking long-distance "approach" images several months ahead of time. This one shows the planet with its four largest moons on June 21, 2016, when the spacecraft was 10.9 million kilometers away. The stripes across Jupiter are its cloud belts and zones.

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Heading for the South Pole of Jupiter

Juno heading for the south pole of Jupiter.
Juno heads for the south pole of Jupiter, past the Great Red Spot. NASA

The Juno spacecraft was programmed for a 37-orbit mission, and on its first loop it captured a view of the belts and zones of the planet, as well as the Great Red Spot as the probe sped toward the south pole. Even though Juno was still about 703,000 kilometers away, the probe's cameras revealed details in the clouds and storms. 

 

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Viewing Part of Jupiter's Southern Pole

Juno images Jupiter's south pole.
Jupiter's south pole as seen by the probe's JunoCam. NASA

The high-resolution JunoCam onboard the probe showed just how complex Jupiter's atmosphere and storms can be. This is a view of Jupiter's south polar region, taken from a distance of 101,000 kilometers above the cloudtops. The enhanced colors (supplied here by citizen scientist John Landino), help planetary scientists in their studies of the bright clouds and oval-shaped storms that seem to wander through the upper atmosphere of the planet.  

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More Jovian South Pole from Juno

Juno images south pole of Jupiter.
A nearly full view of Jupiter's south pole as seen by Juno, along with belts and zones north of the pole. NASA

This image captures nearly the entire southern polar region of Jupiter, showing the complex forms of clouds and storms in the region. The enhanced colors show the many different regions in the pole. 

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The Little Red Spot of Jupiter

Little Red Spot
The "Little Red Spot" on Jupiter, as seen by the Juno spacecraft. NASA

While the Great Red Spot is the most famous of Jupiter's storms, there are smaller ones that whirl through the atmosphere. This one is called the "Little Red Spot" and also Cloud Complex BA. It whirls counterclockwise through the southern hemisphere of the planet. It's mostly white and surrounded by whirls of clouds. 

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Close-up of Jovian Clouds

Up-close detail of Jupiter clouds.
This image of Jupiter's clouds resembles an Impressionistic painting. NASA

This view of Jupiter's clouds looks almost like an Impressionistic painting. The ovals are storms, while the swirling, curling clouds indicate turbulence in the upper cloud decks.

 

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A Wide-angle View of Jupiter's Storms and Clouds

A wide-angle view of Jupiter's clouds.
A wide-angle view of Jupiter's clouds and white-colored storms. NASA

The clouds of Jupiter show many details in up-close images such as this one from the Juno spacecraft. They look like swirls of paint, but each of the bands would dwarf Earth. The white bands have smaller clouds embedded within. The three white ovals diagonally across the top are called the "String of Pearls" storms. They're each larger than our planet, and move through the upper atmosphere at a speed of hundreds of kilometers per hour. Even though the spacecraft was more than 33,000 kilometers from the planet, its camera view reveals incredible details in the planet's atmosphere. 

 

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Earth as Seen by Juno

Earth from Juno
Earth as seen by the Juno spacecraft. NASA

Even though Juno's main mission was to focus on Jupiter, it also took some images of Earth as it looped past our home planet. This is a view of South America, taken on October 9, 2013, as the spacecraft flew by Earth to get a gravity assist on its way to Jupiter. The spacecraft was about 5,700 kilometers from Earth and the view shows our rounded world in all its glory. 

The Juno mission is one of many probes sent to the outer planets to get more information about these massive worlds, their rings, and moons. In addition to providing detailed images of Jupiter's clouds and storms, the spacecraft was also tasked to gather more information about its moons, the rings, magnetic field, and gravitational field. The gravity and magnetic data will help planetary scientists understand more about what's happening inside Jupiter. Its interior is thought to be a small rocky core, covered with layers of liquid metallic hydrogen and helium, all underneath a massive atmosphere of hydrogen, dotted with ammonia clouds.

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Petersen, Carolyn Collins. "10 Amazing Images of Jupiter from the Juno Mission." ThoughtCo, Jun. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/juno-mission-photos-4143557. Petersen, Carolyn Collins. (2017, June 28). 10 Amazing Images of Jupiter from the Juno Mission. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/juno-mission-photos-4143557 Petersen, Carolyn Collins. "10 Amazing Images of Jupiter from the Juno Mission." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/juno-mission-photos-4143557 (accessed November 21, 2017).