Powerful storms around Jupiter’s north pole swirl in stunning new images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during its close approach to the giant planet on July 5.
Storms reach depths of more than 30 miles (50 kilometers) in the turbulent Jupiter’s atmosphere and are hundreds of miles wide, NASA said in a statement (opens in a new tab). Scientists study these storms to understand what drives their formation and gives them their striking and unique characteristics.
Past sightings of Jupiter showed that these cyclones vary in color depending on the direction in which they turn, as well as their location. For example, storms that spin counterclockwise in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere and those that spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere have distinctly different shapes and colors than those that spin clockwise in the north and counterclockwise to the south.
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Junowhich was launched in 2011 and reached the The gas giant five years later, took the images during its 43rd close flyby of Jupiter on July 5, NASA said in the statement. The probe orbits Jupiter in a highly elliptical orbit, completing one revolution every 43 days. At its closest, Juno comes within about 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) of Jupiter’s cloud tops. This particular image was taken when the probe was at a distance of about 15,600 miles (25,100 kilometers) from the planet.
The Juno mission, originally scheduled to retire in 2021, was extended last year until at least 2025. During its remaining life, the probe will continue to focus on Jupiter’s fascinating atmosphere and will also study the planet’s mysterious moons. Ganymede, Europeand Iosome of which can harbor microbial life.
In the meantime, NASA is asking space enthusiasts and citizen scientists to help categorize images of storms and other atmospheric phenomena captured by Juno’s JunoCam instrument as part of the Jovian Vortex Hunter (opens in a new tab) project. Anyone with access to a cell phone or laptop can contribute to the analysis. So far, more than 2,400 volunteers have classified more than 375,000 images as part of the project.