NASA reported that its probe Juno, currently orbiting Jupiter, executed the first of its planned 36 orbital flybys, coming to within 2,500 miles of the largest planet in the solar system on August 27. For six hours Juno flew over Jupiter’s North Pole then its south pole, returning six megabytes of data. Scientists are still analyzing the data, but the picture that emerges are of storm systems and weather patterns in the planet’s clouds that have never before been seen in NASA’s exploration of the solar system.

Juno showed that Jupiter’s North Pole is bluer in color than the rest of the planet and lacks the latitudinal bands that have characterized it in every other image ever taken. Some of the clouds have shadows, which suggests that they exist at a high altitude than was previously imagined. Unlike Saturn, Jupiter lacks a hexagon at its North Pole.

The Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), provided by the Italian Space Agency, provided the first infrared images of Jupiter’s north and south poles ever acquired.

The instrument showed warm and hot spots as well as Jupiter’s southern aurora, which seems to be bright and well structured.

The Radio/Plasma Wave Experiment (Waves) instrument picked up Jupiter’s naturally occurring radio emissions, something that was known to have existed since the 1950s, but never before heard from such a close vantage point. The emissions seem to be generated by the same energetic particles that create Jupiter’s auroras.

The radio emissions are the strongest that have been picked up in the solar system.

Juno was launched on August 5. 2011 and arrived in Jupiter orbit on July 4, 2016. The NASA probe is orbiting the gas giant in a wide elliptical orbit, dipping in deep into that planet’s dominant zone of radiation to examine it closer than ever before, and then soaring at a vast distance before going in once again.

The probe is expected to closely look at Jupiter 35 more times over a period of 20 months before the instruments begin to fail because of the intense radiation. The probe will be deorbited so that it crashes into Jupiter in February 2018. 

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