The latest photos from NASA’s Juno orbiter are getting up close and personal with Jupiter. Known as Perijove 12 – because it’s this mission’s 12th encounter with the giant planet – the images only add to the recent mysteries that have emerged regarding the Great Red Spot.
Since Juno first entered a polar orbit of Jupiter on July 5, 2016, the mission continues to change everything scientists once thought about the planet. Jupiter’s magnetic field is significantly stronger than scientists had expected, and Juno’s observations have revealed new insight on the stability of the planet’s storms. Juno’s most recent drive by of Jupiter was on April 1, and this new crop of photos succeed in raising even more questions about Jupiter’s giant storm.
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Juno’s mission is to provide data regarding Jupiter’s magnetic field and internal composition. After every perijove session, the images taken on Juno’s camera are sent back to Earth, where astronomers and photo editors are hired to process.
Not only does NASA share the raw images, but the agency invites photo editors to download them and add their own enhancements. NASA then shares some of the images, which have been cropped and highlighted to showcase specific planetary features.
The Great Red Spot has been in the spotlight lately and new information regarding its size has sparked debate. A study published in The Astronomical Journal last month suggests that the Great Red Spot might be getting taller as it shrinks, meaning it’s not losing as much mass as scientists once thought.
Juno’s close encounters with Jupiter come every 54 days, which means the next batch of photos from Perijove 13 can be expected around May 24. Juno’s mission is scheduled to conclude after Perijove 14 in July and the spacecraft is slated to be intentionally de-orbited into Jupiter’s atmosphere. However, given how many unanswered questions come with each Juno encounter, the mission could receive an extension.