Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: July 4, 2016 is the day NASA's Juno mission arrives at Jupiter, when new sights of the planet's clouds will be sent back to Earth, thanks to its colour camera that goes by the name of JunoCam.
But unlike previous space missions, professional scientists will not be the ones producing the processed views, or even choosing which images to capture. Instead, the public will act as a virtual imaging team, participating in key steps of the process, from identifying features of interest to sharing the finished images online.
According to NASA, the Juno team has kicked off the first stage of JunoCam activity with the launch of a new Web platform on the mission's website. Now and throughout the mission, amateur astronomers are invited to submit images of Jupiter from their own telescopes. These views will be the basis for online discussions about which of Jupiter's swirls, bands and spots JunoCam should image as it makes repeated, close passes over the planet. The ground-based views will be essential for identifying and tracking changes in the planet's cloud features as Juno approaches.
Juno will get closer to Jupiter than any previous orbiting spacecraft, giving JunoCam the best close-up views yet of the planet's colorful cloud bands. Every 14 days, the spinning, solar-powered spacecraft will dive past the planet in just a couple of hours, gathering huge amounts of science data, plus about a dozen JunoCam images. At closest approach, Juno will snap photos from only 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) above Jupiter's clouds.
NASA also quoted Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, saying, “This is really the public's camera. We are hoping students and whole classrooms will get involved and join our team. We want to give people an opportunity to participate with NASA, and public involvement is key to JunoCam's success. This is citizen science at its best.”