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CITIZEN SCIENCE

Jupiter in striking shades of blue

Jovian clouds in striking shades of blue in this new view taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft

The Juno spacecraft captured this image when the spacecraft was only 18.906 kilometers from the tops of Jupiter’s clouds - that’s roughly as far as the distance between New York City and Perth, Australia. 

The color-enhanced image, which captures a cloud system in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere, was taken on Oct. 24, 2017 when Juno was at a latitude of 57.57 degrees (nearly three-fifths of the way from Jupiter’s equator to its north pole) and performing its ninth close flyby of the gas giant planet. The spatial scale in this image is 2.5 kilometers/pixel. 

Because of the Juno-Jupiter-Sun angle when the spacecraft captured this image, the higher-altitude clouds can be seen casting shadows on their surroundings. The behavior is most easily observable in the whitest regions in the image, but also in a few isolated spots in both the bottom and right areas of the image. 

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran processed this image using data from the JunoCam imager.

The probe's journey began just over five years ago, on 5 August 2011, and it arrived at its destination, Jupiter's orbit, on 4 July this year (in Italy, it was at dawn on the following day) after travelling a distance of approximately three billion kilometres.  

JUNO's goal is to analyse the Jupiter’s characteristics as representative of the giant planets. The Solar System’s ‘heavyweight’ can, in fact, offer fundamentally important data not only for gaining deeper knowledge of the origin of the System itself, but also for analysing those of the planetary systems that are gradually discovered around other stars, with particular reference to those exoplanets that have a similar mass to that of Jupiter. 

JUNO's heart is the Italian JIRAM (Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper), financed by ASI, built by Leonardo and operated under the scientific responsibility of INAF's Institute of Astrophysics and Planetology (IAPS). 

JUNO's other Italian component is KaT (Ka-Band Translator), a radio science instrument designed by  'La Sapienza' University of Rome, built by Thales Alenia Space Italia again with ASI's support.