The Juno spacecraft is whizzing around Jupiter and its highly destructive atmosphere, gathering as much data as it can before it succumbs to the inevitable. On December 11th, Juno captured a breathtaking image of Jupiter’s northern latitudes. Juno was performing a close flyby of the planet, at an altitude of 10,300 miles (16,600 kilometers) when the JunoCam imager grabbed this shot. You can see the Little Red Spot in the lower left region of the photo. Little is only by comparison, as it is actually a giant storm and the third largest of its kind on the gas planet.
These anticyclones occur in regions of high pressure and large-scale wind circulation, and we are talking about winds speeds of 600 kilometers per hour (kph). Most of us have heard of the largest anticyclone, the Great Red Spot, which has been observed from Earth for 350 years. They are similar to our hurricanes and tornados in how they behave. Many factors contribute to the longevity of these storms, including Jupiter’s fast spin, the lack of atmospheric layers and almost limitless energy from the planet’s thick atmosphere.
NASA is taking suggestions and votes for where to image during their next close flyby of the planet. They are limited by digital storage space on the craft, so they have to be selective. You can cast your votes for the next close up view here. Juno begins its flyby at the North Pole and two hours later emerges from the South Pole. These close ups allow the spacecraft to take high-resolution images of specific features and areas on Jupiter. NASA wants to know what you have been dying to see on the massive gas planet.
Jupiter is in many ways a mystery, its swirling clouds and thick layers make it very difficult to probe deeper into the planet to better understand its composition. Juno’s mission is to help unravel these mysteries before its sensor are destroyed by the intense radiation from the planet.