Juno probe beams back first images from orbit around Jupiter

PASADENA, Calif., Juno recently beamed back the first images captured while in orbit around Jupiter.

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After a five-year journey, the NASA probe entered into orbit around the gas giant last week. Six days after its July 4 orbital entrance, the spacecraft turned on its visible-light camera, the JunoCam.
Juno’s inaugural imagery is groundbreaking, but not necessarily aesthetically impressive. Higher-resolution portraits of Jupiter and its many satellites are still a couple of weeks away.

“This scene from JunoCam indicates it survived its first pass through Jupiter’s extreme radiation environment without any degradation and is ready to take on Jupiter,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a news release. “We can’t wait to see the first view of Jupiter’s poles.”

The image, captured during the outbound portion of Juno’s first orbit, does reveal three of Jupiter’s moons — Io, Europa and Ganymede — as well as the gas giant’s signature mark, the Great Red Spot.

Juno is still in its initial orbit, traveling at a distance of 2.7 million miles from Jupiter. Subsequent orbits will see Juno move much closer to the gas giant.

“JunoCam will continue to take images as we go around in this first orbit,” added Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27 when Juno makes its next close pass to Jupiter.”

JunoCam’s main role is to foster public engagement with wowing photos. Scientists on the Juno mission are more interested in the returns of instruments designed to study Jupiter’s structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

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