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Ethereal views of Jupiter’s north and south pole

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has sent back images providing never-before-seen perspective on Jupiter’s north (1st image) and south pole (2nd image). The JunoCam instrument acquired the views on August 27, 2016.

According to NASA, the download of 6 MB of data collected during the 6-hour transit, from above Jupiter’s north pole to below its south pole, took 1.5 days. While analysis of this first data collection is ongoing, some unique discoveries have already made themselves visible.

“First glimpse of Jupiter’s north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “It’s bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms. There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to – this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We’re seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features.”

The down under is full of rotating storms of various sizes, similar to giant versions of terrestrial hurricanes, as well. You probably remember this image from the Cassini spacecraft, which observed most of the polar region as it flew past Jupiter on its way to Saturn in 2000. However, the south pole has never been seen from this viewpoint.

What’s more from this treasure trove of news is that along with JunoCam, all eight of Juno’s science instruments were collecting data. The Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), supplied by the Italian Space Agency, acquired some remarkable images of Jupiter at its north and south polar regions in infrared wavelengths. Here’s the southern aurora:

“These first infrared views of Jupiter’s north and south poles are revealing warm and hot spots that have never been seen before. No other instruments, both from Earth or space, have been able to see the southern aurora. Now, with JIRAM, we see that it appears to be very bright and well-structured. The high level of detail in the images will tell us more about the aurora’s morphology and dynamics,” said Alberto Adriani, JIRAM co-investigator from Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, Rome.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Original articles: 1, 2

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