Astronomy Exploration

Some of the spectacular images from NASA’s Juno probe mission to Jupiter

Back in 2011, NASA launched an ambitious probe mission to study Jupiter – our solar system’s most massive nonsolar resident.

It’s so massive, in fact, that it has pulled the barycenter of the Sun-Jupiter pair 743,000 km from its center. Since the Sun’s radius is only 696,000 km, that means that the gravitational pull of Jupiter is so extreme that it has wrenched the center of mass between the Sun and Jupiter to an astounding 47,000 km above the Sun’s surface! 

In other words, Jupiter doesn’t really orbit the Sun like the other, smaller planets as much as the Sun and Jupiter both orbit one another (but with the caveat that the center of that orbit is still much closer to the Sun than it is to Jupiter.)

After a long journey involving a gravitational slingshot manuever to pick up speed, the Juno probe entered Jupiter’s orbit in July, 2016 and began its mission mapping Jupiter’s gravity, the magnetic fields, and studying the atmosphere.

In the course of that work, it has also snapped some amazing photos. You’ll find highlights from the mission (so far) below. Incidentally, all these images (and others) are freely available to the public at  www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam.

Jupiter's north pole
Jupiter’s north pole. Enhanced color image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)
This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s south pole and its swirling atmosphere was created by citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft
This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s south pole and its swirling atmosphere was created by citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)
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A swirling storm just south of one of the white oval storms on Jupiter
This image, taken by the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft, highlights a swirling storm just south of one of the white oval storms on Jupiter. Enhanced color image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major
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The upper wisps of Jupiter’s atmosphere
NASA’s Juno spacecraft skimmed the upper wisps of Jupiter’s atmosphere when JunoCam snapped this image on Feb. 2 at 5:13 a.m. PT (8:13 a.m. ET), from an altitude of about 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) above the giant planet’s swirling cloudtops. Enhanced color image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko
This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian “galaxy” of swirling storms
This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian “galaxy” of swirling storms. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko
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This image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot was created by a citizen scientist (Roman Tkachenko) using data from Juno's JunoCam instrument
This image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot was created by a citizen scientist (Roman Tkachenko) using data from Juno’s JunoCam instrument. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko
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