NASA released this color view of Jupiter and several of its largest moons late in the day on July 12, 2016. It’s the first image released from the Juno spacecraft, which is the first spacecraft to enter Jupiter orbit since Galileo in the 1990s. NASA is now testing the craft’s systems and calibrating its instruments, while calling all astrophotographers for help, but this initial view shows that the mission’s camera known as JunoCam survived its first pass through Jupiter’s extreme radiation environment. Phew.
JunoCam acquired the image on July 10, 2016 at 5:30 UTC, when the spacecraft was 2.7 million miles (4.3 million km) from Jupiter on the outbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit. Juno will spend 107 days in this highly elongated capture orbit. Scientists chose to take this long way around instead of inserting Juno directly into its final, 14-day orbit, because the direct route would have required a lot of fuel.
JunoCam will continue to image Jupiter during Juno’s capture orbits. The first high-resolution images of the planet will be taken on August 27 when the Juno spacecraft makes its next close pass to Jupiter.
Juno’s final orbit around Jupiter, by the way, has been called “the most challenging ever attempted.” It’ll ultimately bring the craft as close as just 3,100 miles (5,000 km) to the planet’s cloudtops.
The video below – which has been watched 1.4 million times on YouTube – shows Juno’s awesome approach to Jupiter:
— NASA's Juno Mission (@NASAJuno) July 12, 2016
Calling all astrophotographers! The official science collection phase of the Juno mission begins in October. In the meantime, the JunoCam team is calling all amateur astronomers and astrophotographers to upload their telescopic images and data of Jupiter. On JunoCam’s web page, the team explained:
These uploads are critical for the upcoming Discussion section (now live!) and will help NASA successfully plan the future of the mission.
If you’re a veteran astrophotographer or if you’re just getting started with your first telescope, we highly recommend you read our Submission Guidelines before submitting data. In the PDF you’ll find information about the best capture and process workflows as well as links to free software and tutorials.
Follow this link for professional Earth-based support observations schedules
Before you go, check out the video below. It’s an animation, showing Juno’s graceful sweep through space, on the 5-year voyage to Jupiter. Wow. It’s hard to realize sometimes – amidst the chaos of earthly affairs – that we’re also truly space-farers.
Bottom line: First color view from the Juno spacecraft’s Junocam, acquired from Jupiter orbit on July 5, 2016. Plus information on how amateur astronomers and photographers can participate in the mission.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.