New Delhi: Ever since its smooth transit from Earth into its destined orbit around Jupiter, NASA's Juno spacecraft has been beaming back some amazing data on the planet as well as giving space enthusiasts spectacular visual treats from time to time.
With many turning points marking its one-year-long journey in Jupiter's orbit, Juno has revolutionised the world's perception and understanding of the gas giant.
While the spacecraft keeps making important manoeuveres time and again, not many are aware that once every 53 days, it swings extremely close to Jupiter, speeding over its clouds.
In just two hours, the spacecraft travels from a perch over Jupiter’s north pole through its closest approach (perijove), then passes over the south pole on its way back out.
On September 1, 2017 (Perijove 8), Juno made one of these close approaches and obtained a number of images, which show how quickly the viewing geometry changes for Juno as it swoops by Jupiter.
NASA released 11 colour-enhanced images of the giant planet with the south pole on the left (11th image in the sequence) and the north pole on the right (first image in the sequence).
According to NASA, the first image on the right shows a half-lit globe of Jupiter, with the north pole approximately at the upper center of the image close to the terminator – the dividing line between night and day. As the spacecraft gets closer to Jupiter, the horizon moves in and the range of visible latitudes shrinks.
The second and third images in this sequence show the north polar region rotating away from the spacecraft's field of view while the first of Jupiter's lighter-colored bands comes into view.
The fourth through the eighth images display a blue-colored vortex in the mid-southern latitudes near Points of Interest "Collision of Colours," "Sharp Edge," "Caltech, by Halka," and "Structure01."
The Points of Interest are locations in Jupiter’s atmosphere that were identified and named by members of the general public. Additionally, a darker, dynamic band can be seen just south of the vortex. In the ninth and tenth images, the south polar region rotates into view.
The final image on the left displays Jupiter's south pole in the center.
From the start of this sequence of images to the end, roughly 1 hour and 35 minutes elapsed, NASA said.
Check out the sequence of images captured by JunoCam below:
(Image courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)