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LOOK: NASA Reveals Rare Closest Images of Jupiter

Sep 13, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
Auroral Lights Around Jupiter
Scientists are still studying the first images taken by the Juno probe after its first flyby to the planet Jupiter. Scientists are expecting Juno to provide more scientific insights about the planet and the Solar System during its two-year mission to the giant gas planet.
(Photo : NASA/Newsmakers)

NASA's Juno spacecraft is the first to get extremely close to the planet Jupiter, because of that, it has taken fascinating images of the planet's pole during its flyby. A few weeks after the images were taken, scientists are still enthralled and intrigued with how Jupiter's poles look.

Last Aug. 27, Juno managed to complete the first of its 36 flybys to Jupiter during the course of its two-year mission on the planet. The flyby allowed the JunoCam aboard the spacecraft to capture surprising images of the planet as it traveled near the surface of Jupiter.

The images from Juno perfectly captured the storm systems and weather activities happening on Jupiter's pole. Scientists say these are "unlike anything previously seen" in the Solar System.

Juno is only about 2,000 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter's clouds when the images were taken, making its flyby a record-breaking milestone for the closest approach of a spacecraft to the giant planet. During the flyby, Juno transited from Jupiter's North Pole to the South Pole in a span of six hours, providing JunoCam a wide variety of angles to observe and photograph the planet.

"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," Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator said in a press release. "We're seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features," Bolton added.

Juno spent five years traveling from Earth to Jupiter, but the mission is much more interesting than just observing the appearance of the giant gas planet. Scientists at NASA would like to know what the planet is built of using two key measurement points: to find out how much water is on the planet and if Jupiter has a core composed of heavy elements.

"In other words were there rocks in the early Solar System that were formed and gathered together, before Jupiter was formed and Jupiter was built around it? Or did it form more like the Sun out of a collapse of a proto-planetary nebula? We don't know the answer to that," Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator, said in an interview with Quartz.

By providing answers to those questions, scientists at NASA believe that they will be able to find answers regarding the formation of the entire Solar System. Jupiter is believed to be one of the oldest bodies within this planetary system.

Read More:
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Astronomers Discover Rare Twin Stars with Triple Jupiter-Sized Exoplanets


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