NASA's Juno spacecraft has captured stunning images of Jupiter's north pole, which shows the planet's powerful storms.
The images were captured by the spacecraft during its flyby mission on the giant planet on Aug. 27 when it was hovering above Jupiter's clouds at about 4,200 km. The flyby was the closest Juno was able to get to the planet, where it was able to capture images of Jupiter's storm systems and extreme weather activity unlike anything previously seen from the solar system's gas giants.
"First glimpse of Jupiter's north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before," Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwestern Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a press release.
"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 noticeable findings of the JunoCam Imager was that Jupiter did not have the "hexagon" at the north pole similar to that of Saturn's.
"Saturn has a hexagon at the north pole," Bolton said. "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."
Apart from JunoCam, data were collected by other instruments of Juno, including the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), which acquired images of Jupiter's north and south polar regions in infrared wavelengths, and the Radio/Plasma Wave Experiment (Waves), which recorded ghostly-sounding transmissions coming from above the planet.
The Juno spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 5, 2011 and reached the giant planet on July 4, 2016. Juno's mission is expected to last until February 2018, after performing 36 fly-bys. The Aug. 27 flyby was the first of the 36 fly-by's, with all of the spacecraft's equipment activated.
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