NASA astronomers prepare for Juno’s fifth science flyby of Jupiter.
On Thursday, May 18, at 11 p.m. PDT, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will make its fifth science flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops. At the time of perijove (defined as the point in Juno’s orbit when it is closest to the planet’s center), the spacecraft will have logged 63.5 million miles (102 million kilometers) in Jupiter’s orbit and will be about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops.
Juno launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers) During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
The above view of Jupiter, taken by the JunoCam imager of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, highlights Oval BA — a massive storm known as the Little Red Spot. Despite its unofficial name, the Little Red Spot is about as wide as Earth. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. The Great Red Spot, which is about twice as wide as the Little Red Spot, may have formed from the same process centuries ago.
Juno acquired this image on February 2, 2017, at 6:13 a.m. PDT (9:13 a.m. EDT), as the spacecraft performed a close flyby of Jupiter. When the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) from the planet.
This enhanced color image was processed by citizen scientist Bjorn Jonsson.