The Juno spacecraft first launched in 2011 and finally entered Jupiter’s orbit in 2016. It’s been a long trip for the spacecraft but it was finally ready to start some scientific testing on the planet and the first results are now in.
JunoCam, the imaging system on Juno, was able to take an image of both Jupiter’s pole’s. According to these images, the poles have Earth-sized storms that cluster together densely . Juno’s principal investigator Scott Bolton states that “we’re puzzled as to how they could have formed”. He adds that the north and south poles do not look alike and that it’s possible this is just one stage in it’s life.
Prior to the Juno mission, we knew that Jupiter has the most intense magnetic field in the solar system. However, Juno reveals some new information. The magnetic field is actually stronger than all models predicted and has a very irregular shape. In addition to this, the Microwave Radiometer (MWR) reveals some interesting data also.
The MWR reveals that the iconic belts and zones are “mysterious” in nature. They seem to “evolve into structures” and some belts penetrate all the way down.
Juno is currently in a polar orbit around the gas giant. However, most of this time is spent quite far away from the planet and Juno is unable to see the surface. She’s close enough to do this every 53 days. Bolton states that the next flyby will be on June 11th and this time the spacecraft will be passing Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The current hope is that Juno’s cloud-piercing science instruments will be able to give NASA a new view of the zone.
You can read the full press release here. We will provide you with updates as we learn more about the Juno mission over the next few months.