Five years after its launch, NASA’s Juno mission entered Jupiter’s orbit and began its approach to the planet’s clouds in July, 2016. NASA has just finished studying the data and images from Juno’s first flyby. The Juno mission is led by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).
“The solar-powered spacecraft’s eight scientific instruments are designed to study Jupiter’s interior structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere,” states a SwRI press release.
Juno does a flyby every 53 days from the north to the south pole, collecting data and pictures. When not doing these flybys, Juno is orbiting Jupiter from a considerable distance. It takes a long time for the NASA and SwRI team to download the data collected, which is why the findings are just being released. Papers on these findings will be published in Science and Geophysical Research Letters.
Here are the key findings from Juno, according to the SwRI release and a NASA press release:
- While already known to have the strongest magnetic field in the solar system, Jupiter’s magnetic field is stronger than expected- about 10 times greater than the strongest magnetic field on Earth.
- Large storms are clustered at both of Jupiter’s poles. SwRI’s Dr. Scott Bolton stated that his team are trying to figure out how these storms formed, why the two poles look different, and whether they are present year-round.
- Juno is studying Jupiter’s northern and southern lights. So far, the findings seem to say that Jupiter’s auroras have different energetic particles than Earth’s.
- Juno’s Microwave Radiometer found excessive amounts of ammonia in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which increases as it continues toward the planet.
- “Juno is mapping Jupiter’s gravitational and magnetic fields to better understand the planet’s interior structure and measure the mass of the core. Scientists think a dynamo — a rotating, convecting, electrically conducting fluid in a planet’s outer core — is the mechanism for generating the planetary magnetic fields,” says SwRI.
On July 11, Juno will perform its next flyby, passing the famous Great Red Spot, which may provide some data on the famous swirling storm. Stay tuned!
Here are some of the JunoCam images. NASA is recruiting the public to help process raw images taken by the camera, like the picture above.