NASA’s Jupiter probe was supposed gather data when it did a close flyby of the gas giant a few days ago. Alas, it suddenly switched off all its scientific instruments as it unexpectedly entered safe mode due to some engine troubles. Thankfully, it was a temporary setback: Juno is now back and ready to do science the next time it’s scheduled to soar close to the planet (December 11th).
Even though it wasn’t able to gather data this time around, the information it beamed back from its August 27th flyby continues to keep its ground team busy. For instance, thanks to the info gathered by Juno’s Microwave Radiometer instrument (MWR), they discovered that Jupiter’s bands aren’t just skin-deep. They found that those bands extend “as far down as [their] instruments can see, but seem to change with each layer.” To note, the radiometer can see 215 to 250 miles below the planet’s cloudy facade. This discovery came from the same set of data which revealed that the planet’s auroras are much bigger and more powerful than ours here on Earth.
The photos Juno sent back are also keeping citizen scientists busy. Since JunoCam has no image processing personnel, NASA is relying on the public to help them generate images from the camera’s raw data. One particular submission (below) seem to have caught people’s attention: its creator made a smiley emoji using a photo of Jupiter’s south pole.
JunoCam imaging scientist Candy Hansen said:
“The amateurs are giving us a different perspective on how to process images. They are experimenting with different color enhancements, different highlights or annotations than we would normally expect. They are identifying storms tracked from Earth to connect our images to the historical record. This is citizen science at its best.”
[Image credit: Randy Ahn © CC NC SA]