Jupiter's north pole unlike anything encountered in solar system

September 2, 2016, NASA
NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this view as it closed in on Jupiter's north pole, about two hours before closest approach on Aug. 27, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

NASA's Juno spacecraft has sent back the first-ever images of Jupiter's north pole, taken during the spacecraft's first flyby of the planet with its instruments switched on. The images show storm systems and weather activity unlike anything previously seen on any of our solar system's gas giant planets.

Juno successfully executed the first of 36 orbital flybys on Aug. 27 when the spacecraft came about 2,500 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter's swirling clouds. The download of six megabytes of data collected during the six hour transit, from above Jupiter's north pole to below its south pole, took one and a half 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."

One of the most notable findings of these first ever pictures of Jupiter's north and south poles is something that the JunoCam imager did not see.

"Saturn has a hexagon at the north pole," said Bolton. "There is nothing on Jupiter that anywhere near resembles that. The largest planet in our solar system is truly unique. We have 36 more flybys to study just how unique it really is."

Along with JunoCam snapping pictures during the flyby, all eight of Juno's science instruments were energized and collecting data. The Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JI-RAM), supplied by the Italian Space Agency, acquired some remarkable images of Jupiter at its north and south polar regions in infrared wavelengths.

"JIRAM is getting under Jupiter's skin, giving us our first infrared close-ups of the planet," said Alberto Adriani, JIRAM co-investigator from Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, Rome. "These first infrared views of Jupiter's north and south poles are revealing warm and hot spots that have never been seen before. And while we knew that the first ever infrared views of Jupiter's could reveal the planet's southern aurora, we were amazed to see it for the first time. 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."

Among the more unique data sets collected by Juno during its first scientific sweep by Jupiter was that acquired by the mission's Radio/Plasma Wave Experiment (Waves), which recorded ghostly sounding transmissions emanating from above the planet. These radio emissions from Jupiter have been known about since the 1950s but had never been analyzed from such a close vantage point.

"Jupiter is talking to us in a way only gas giant worlds can," said Bill Kurth, co-investigator for the Waves instrument from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. "Waves detected the signature emissions of the energetic particles that generate the massive auroras which encircle Jupiter's . These emissions are the strongest in the solar system. Now we are going to try to figure out where the electrons come from that are generating them."

The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida and arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

This infrared image gives an unprecedented view of the southern aurora of Jupiter, as captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft on August 27, 2016. The planet's southern aurora can hardly be seen from Earth due to our home planet's position in respect to Jupiter's south pole. Juno's unique polar orbit provides the first opportunity to observe this region of the gas-giant planet in detail. Juno's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) camera acquired the view at wavelengths ranging from 3.3 to 3.6 microns -- the wavelengths of light emitted by excited hydrogen ions in the polar regions. The view is a mosaic of three images taken just minutes apart from each other, about four hours after the perijove pass while the spacecraft was moving away from Jupiter. Credit: NASA

This image provides a close-up view of Jupiter's southern hemisphere, as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft on August 27, 2016. The JunoCam instrument captured this image with its red spectral filter when the spacecraft was about 23,600 miles (38,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops. The image covers an area from close to the south pole to 20 degrees south of the equator, centered on a longitude at about 140 degrees west. The transition between the banded structures near the equator and the more chaotic polar region (south of about 65 degrees south latitude) can be clearly seen. The smaller version at right of this image shows the same view with a latitude/longitude grid overlaid. This image has been processed to remove shading effects near the terminator -- the dividing line between day and night -- caused by Juno's orbit. Credit: NASA

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14 comments

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shavera
4.5 / 5 (8) Sep 02, 2016
My cat does not like the sound of Jupiter's aurora.
snoosebaum
not rated yet Sep 02, 2016
does the brighter infrared mean hotter ?
Phys1
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 02, 2016
does the brighter infrared mean hotter ?

It should be the intensity integrated over the spectral sensitivity range from 3.3 to 3.6 um.
If my guess is correct then brighter means more emission, not hotter emission.
Maggnus
4.5 / 5 (8) Sep 02, 2016
"One of the most notable findings of these first ever pictures of Jupiter's north and south poles is something that the JunoCam imager did not see." No electrical power cord!
TransmissionDump
5 / 5 (4) Sep 02, 2016
"One of the most notable findings of these first ever pictures of Jupiter's north and south poles is something that the JunoCam imager did not see." No electrical power cord!


It runs on batteries mate
Tuxford
1.8 / 5 (10) Sep 05, 2016
Interesting that unlike for Ceres, NASA has no problem releasing photos of Jupiter almost immediately. Guess they are confident nothing unusual will be in these photos of a gas giant. For a rocky body, the unusual features must first be scrubbed clean. This takes time to analyze, so the photos are not released to the public in a timely fashion.
leetennant
5 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2016
What?
Phys1
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 05, 2016
@Tuxford
That is not true, but what does truth matter to a maniac.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2016
Simple proof that Tuxford is wrong:

If NASA (or any other government agency) were to hide all the things he so openly decvlares then they would have nabbed Tuxford a long time ago and put him away where he can't spoil all their secret plans. They haven't. Ergo he's telling bunkum.

So Tuxford - why do YOU think you're still at large?
Tuxford
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 05, 2016
Ah, you maniacs are so naive, you even believe in the Huge Bang Fantasy. Gullible, I say. You also believe NASA was created for the public good. (Only a different public good.)

I just happened to have personally witnessed the entire 2nd EVA of Apollo 17 while the rest of you were treated to reruns, by watching the live feed in the NASA auditorium in Houston as a teen. I personally KNOW they are covering up. But that is not enough. There are plenty of gullible maniacs like you guys to discount my account. So the masses are easily manipulated.

NASA is a PR agency of the DoD, that happens to do some public good. But it is a PR agency nonetheless, protecting the public from what they are not ready to know. Like that they are not alone at the center of the universe, or that faster than light travel is indeed possible. Indeed, the Zoo hypothesis is the correct one. That is why we cut the Apollo program short and never returned to the moon. It is already occupied.
leetennant
5 / 5 (6) Sep 05, 2016
"I just happened to have personally witnessed the entire 2nd EVA of Apollo 17 while the rest of you were treated to reruns, by watching the live feed in the NASA auditorium in Houston as a teen. I personally KNOW they are covering up"

Weird cover up - to show a bunch of teenagers the truth? Also, what are they covering up precisely? You're a bit vague on it actually. It's kind of like an Agenda 21 conspiracy of space travel. What are they lying about? EVERYTHING. Who's in on it? EVERYONE.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (5) Sep 06, 2016
That is why we cut the Apollo program short and never returned to the moon. It is already occupied.


Christ, we get some nutters on here!
cantdrive85
3 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2016
"One of the most notable findings of these first ever pictures of Jupiter's north and south poles is something that the JunoCam imager did not see." No electrical power cord!

You obviously are suggesting Jupiter has no Birkeland currents at the poles. Even on Earth the aurora don't occur without Birkeland's electrical cords.
bschott
not rated yet Sep 20, 2016
Interesting that unlike for Ceres, NASA has no problem releasing photos of Jupiter almost immediately. Guess they are confident nothing unusual will be in these photos of a gas giant. For a rocky body, the unusual features must first be scrubbed clean. This takes time to analyze, so the photos are not released to the public in a timely fashion.


18 days later we haven't heard a peep about what Juno is seeing.....or any images.
Curious.

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