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Jupiter’s last flyby offered some of the most stunning views so far


The most massive planet in the solar system, twice the size of all other planets combined. This giant world was formed from the same cloud of dust and gas that became our Sun and the rest of the planets.

But Jupiter was the firstborn of our planetary family. Being the first planet, Jupiter’s enormous gravitational field likely shaped the rest of the entire solar system.

Jupiter could have played a role in which all the planets aligned in their orbits around the Sun … or not, as the asteroid belt is a vast region that could have been occupied by another planet were it not for the gravity of Jupiter.

Gas giants like Jupiter can also launch entire planets out of their solar systems, or they themselves spiral into their stars.

The formation of Saturn several million years later probably spared Jupiter this fate.

Jupiter can also act as a “comet hunter”

;. Comets and asteroids that might otherwise fall towards the inner solar system and hit rocky worlds like Earth are instead captured by Jupiter’s gravitational field and eventually plunge into Jupiter’s clouds.

But at other times in Earth’s history, Jupiter may have had the opposite effect, throwing asteroids in our direction – generally a bad thing, but it may also have brought water-rich rocks to Earth which led to the blue planet we know. today.

Jupiter is a window into our solar system’s past, a past literally enveloped in Jupiter’s clouds, which is why Juno, the probe currently orbiting Jupiter, is so named. Juno, Jupiter’s wife in mythology, was able to peek through a cloak of clouds that Jupiter used to hide himself and his wrongdoing.

In this case, however, we are looking through the clouds of Jupiter in our history. Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit on July 5, 2016 after traveling for nearly five years to reach the gas giant.

Falling into Jupiter’s gravity well, Juno reached a speed of 210,000 km / h, one of the fastest speed records set by any man-made object.

Juno is in a highly eccentric 53-day orbit. During Perijove, or the closest orbital approach, Juno skims Jupiter at an altitude of 4,200 km and then moves outward up to 8.1 million km. Juno’s orbit is designed to navigate through the weakest areas of Jupiter’s incredibly powerful magnetic field.

Second in power only to the Sun itself, Jupiter’s magnetic field accelerates high-energy particles from the Sun by creating powerful bands of radiation that surround the planet – electronic frying radiation.

In addition to its nimble navigation, Juno’s electronics are radiation resistant with its “radiant vault,” a 1cm-thick titanium shell that houses its sensitive scientific equipment.

One piece of equipment that dazzles all of us on Earth is JunoCam, an RGB color camera that captures visual images of Jupiter’s clouds as the spacecraft buzzes the planet in just two hours each orbit while spending as little time as possible in Jupiter’s radiation.

More recently, Juno completed Perijove 29 and some of the photos were published by “Software Engineer, Planetary and Climate Data Analyzer, and Scientific Data Visualization Artist” Kevin Gill.

Kevin has an absolutely amazing Flickr page where he posts images he processed from Juno and other missions like Cassini of Saturn and the HiRISE camera orbiting Mars on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

All right. And finally, why you came here: here’s Juno’s Perijove 29 elaborated by Kevin Gill (you can click on each image to see its full size).

50354102817 4f6d166d42Jupiter from Juno PJ29 – c. (NASA / JPL / Kevin Gill)

50353627451 a9fa985b6eJupiter from Juno PJ29 – c. (NASA / JPL / Kevin Gill)

50353886952 bf2d3931bcJupiter from Juno PJ29 – c. (NASA / JPL / Kevin Gill)

50354101847 08071ae129Jupiter from Juno PJ29 – c. (NASA / JPL / Kevin Gill)

50354243256 a7e10b77c1Jupiter from Juno PJ29 – c. (NASA / JPL / Kevin Gill)

50357320841 d7b91c2e95Jupiter from Juno PJ29 – c. (NASA / JPL / Kevin Gill)

50360879938 78cd2d56deJupiter from Juno PJ29 – c. (NASA / JPL / Kevin Gill)

You can also follow Kevin’s work on Twitter (@kevinmgill) and Instagram (@apoapsys).

JunoCam is not part of Juno’s main science mission. But the camera provides a key function, allowing Juno to take us with us on the journey.

Which I think is truly spectacular. Sometimes astrophotography is considered more of an art than a science.

But myself as an astrophotographer, I believe these images inspire future scientists, general awareness of ongoing scientific missions, and hopefully public support for science funding. By the way, what has our science discovered about our most gigantic of giant worlds?

One of Jupiter’s greatest mysteries is what’s in its heart. Juno helped resolve an ongoing debate in the planetary scientific community about how Jupiter formed.

There were two possibilities: the first is that Jupiter started out as a rocky world, a core about 10 times the mass of the Earth. The gravity of this core attracted the surrounding hydrogen and helium until the Jupiter that we know of was formed, the original rocky world buried beneath the seething vortex.

The second possibility is that the vortices in the rotating protoplanetary disk of our first solar system collapsed on themselves and Jupiter formed directly from them without a rocky core. Both theories describe different conditions at the beginning of our solar system. Juno revealed something stranger, not a solid core, but a “fuzzy” or “diluted” core.

Jupiter appears to have formed from a rocky body, but rather than the core located at the center of the planet, it has spread throughout the interior of Jupiter.

The dilution of the core is likely the result of a massive planetary impact with Jupiter that shattered the initial core and spread it across half of Jupiter’s diameter.

Imagine that you are present for such an event: Jupiter swallowing an would-be planet in our solar system that we have never known. The story of our place in space revealed.

We also learned that Jupiter’s winds dip deep beneath the outer clouds, that the Great Red Spot is hundreds of kilometers deep, and we’ve seen giant cyclones at Jupiter’s north and south poles that could engulf a country.

Cyclones JPL Caltech NASA size comparisonJupiter’s South Pole cyclones in infrared with size comparison with the United States and Texas. (JPL / NASA / Caltech)

Jupiter is currently the brightest object in the night sky after sunset. If you have clear skies and can see it, look south!

Remember, that bright spot is a giant world, hundreds of times the size of Earth, millions of miles away, and yet potentially one of the key factors in your existence. For Jupiter, it’s great.

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.

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