Like many other teens, I thought my lava lamp was the dopest thing to gaze into. But leave it to Jupiter to make my sixties memorabilia look like a complete joke.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has captured what could be the most jaw-dropping footage of the gas giant to date. The new video stitches together 36 color-enhanced JunoCam images, which were gathered by the orbiter while it was 3,500 kilometers over Jupiter’s cloud tops.
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It begins with a sequence of photos that depict the satellite approaching Jupiter from the north on its night side. Juno then descends closer to the planet’s atmosphere, like a seagull flying right over the top of a cosmic ocean.
This short movie marks the eleventh time Juno has passed near the planet since its arrival back in July 2016.
While this might be absolutely majestic to stare at from your computer screen, up close in personal Jupiter is a lot more terrifying.
The gas giant is primarily made up of hydrogen and helium gas, much like the Sun. The temperatures in its clouds is about minus 234 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 106 degrees colder than coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth (minus 129 degrees Fahrenheit), at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica.
But things heat up fast closer to the planet’s center. Its core temperature may be as hot as 43,000 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s almost five times hotter than the surface of the Sun.
NASA is using Juno to gather crucial evidence of the magnetic fields generated by the planet, data that is almost impossible to gather without close flyby missions.
“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and the lead for the mission’s magnetic field investigation, in a statement. “Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others. This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen. Every flyby we execute gets us closer to determining where and how Jupiter’s dynamo works.”
While the craft has been an indispensable resource of astronomers, its mission could come to an end sometime in mid-2018. The instruments aboard Juno might soon fail because of the high levels of radiation it is being exposed to. Once it has completed its fourteenth close flyby it will be directed to dive into Jupiter’s atmosphere where it will completely melt away.
That means we might only have a couple of more months of psychedelic pictures of Jupiter left, until Juno goes out in a blaze of glory. Better soak in all of the dankness while it lasts.