This Aug. 27, 2016 image provided by NASA shows Jupiter's north polar region, taken by the Juno spacecraft 120,000 miles (195,000 kilometers) away from the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS via AP)
Journey to Jupiter produces remarkable images
September 07, 2016
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A NASA spacecraft has captured the best views of Jupiter yet. They revealed turbulent storms. These were seen near the planet's the north pole.
Jupiter's northern polar region is stormier than expected. It appears bluer than the rest of the planet. This is according to mission chief scientist Scott Bolton. He works at the Southwest Research Institute. It is in San Antonio, Texas.
"This image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter," he said in a statement.
On September 2, NASA released a batch of close-up pictures. They were taken by the Juno spacecraft. It recently flew within 2,500 miles of Jupiter's dense cloud tops.
During the rendezvous that took Juno from pole to pole, the solar-powered spacecraft turned on its camera and instruments. They collected data.
The first glimpse of Jupiter's poles came in 1974. That's when Pioneer 11 flew by on its way to Saturn.
The detailed pictures taken by Juno look "like nothing we have seen or imagined before," Bolton said.
Juno also sent back unique views of Jupiter's bright southern lights. They are considered the most powerful in the solar system.
The flyby was the first of three dozen planned close passes. Juno is on a mission that will last 20 months.
Unlike rocky Earth and Mars, Jupiter is a gas giant. It likely formed before Earth and Mars, shortly after the sun. Studying the largest planet in the solar system may hold clues to understanding how Earth and the rest of the planets formed.
It took five years for Juno to reach Jupiter. The spacecraft slipped into orbit around Jupiter in July. Juno will map the massive planet's poles, atmosphere and interior. It's the first spacecraft to carry a titanium vault. The vault is designed to shield its computer and electronics from intense radiation.
Juno is only the second mission to orbit Jupiter. When it completes its job in 2018, Juno will deliberately crash into Jupiter's atmosphere. The spacecraft will disintegrate. NASA planned the finale so that Juno won't accidentally smack into Jupiter's moons. This is especially so for the icy moon Europa. That moon is a target for future exploration.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is the spacecraft solar powered?
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