Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet’s surface than previously thought.
In just two hours, the Juno 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. This sequence shows 14 enhanced-color images.
The first image on the left shows the entire half-lit globe of Jupiter, with the north pole approximately in the center.
As the spacecraft gets closer to Jupiter, the horizon moves in and the range of visible latitudes shrinks.
The third and fourth images in this sequence show the north polar region rotating away from our view while a band of wavy clouds at northern mid-latitudes comes into view.
By the fifth image of the sequence the band of turbulent clouds is nicely centered in the image.
The seventh and eighth images were taken just before the spacecraft was at its closest point to Jupiter, near Jupiter’s equator.
Even though these two pictures were taken just four minutes apart, the view is changing quickly.
As the spacecraft crossed into the southern hemisphere, the bright “south tropical zone” dominates the ninth, 10th and 11th images.
The white ovals in a feature nicknamed Jupiter’s “String of Pearls” are visible in the 12th and 13th images.
In the 14th image Juno views Jupiter’s south poles.
Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit on July 4. On Dec. 11, 2016, as it performed its third close flyby of Jupiter 15,300 miles (24,600 kilometers) from the planet, it caught on camera the seventh of eight features forming a ‘string of pearls’ on Jupiter — massive counterclockwise rotating storms that appear as white ovals in the gas giant’s southern hemisphere.