NASA Juno probe takes breathtaking images of Jupiter’s north pole, southern lights (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
The images show a different side of the planet, Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute said in statement released via NASA on Friday.
“First glimpse of Jupiter’s north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before. It’s bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms,” Bolton said.
“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,” he added.
The southern aurora of Jupiter was captured by June on August 27 along with the other data, giving what the space agency said was a unique look at the planet in detail.
The spaceship’s Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) camera acquired the view at wavelengths ranging from 3.3 to 3.6 microns, which is the wavelengths of light emitted by excited hydrogen ions in the polar regions.
“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 south pole 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,” Adriani added.
NASA also released audio of radio emissions of what the aurora sounds like if the sound is converted to a frequency that the human ear can hear. The “ghostly-sounding” transmissions emanated from above the planet.
The transmissions have been known from Jupiter since the 1950s, NASA said in the statement, but were never analyzed from such a close point till now.
Juno arrived at Jupiter on July 4 and has unusual orbits. The probe only flies near the planet for a few hours at a time and spends most of each orbit at a distance from Jupiter because of the harsh radiation levels near the planet, which could potentially destroy the spacecraft’s electronics if it remained close for too long.
However, it is during those closeups that the probe is able to get the best view of Jupiter, such as what its magnetic and gravitational fields are like, if it has a solid core and if there might be water and how much beneath the cloud tops, which is the sort of information scientists are keen to study.
The spacecraft’s mission is due to end in 2018 and is expected to make 35 more flybys. The probe is currently in orbit, and takes typically 53 days to make a single revolution. It will still take some months before Juno will compile the clear picture of the planet, that it intends to get.