NASA’s Juno mission finished a close flyby of Jupiter on Thursday, Feb. 2, its fourth over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops and sent beautiful pictures to Earth. The next flyby will be on March 27, 2017.
Juno is currently in a 53-day orbit, and at the time of its closest approach, called perijove, it will be about 2,670 miles (4,300 kilometers) above the planet traveling at a speed of about 129,000 mph (57.8 kilometers per second) relative to Jupiter.
All eight science instruments, including the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument, are collecting data during the flyby.
“Tomorrow may be ‘Groundhog Day’ here on Earth, but it’s never Groundhog Day when you are flying past Jupiter. With every close flyby we are finding something new,” said Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
Analysis of the pictures sent by Juno was analyzed and they revealed that Jupiter’s magnetic fields and aurora are bigger and more powerful than originally thought and that the belts and zones that give the gas giant’s cloud top its distinctive look extend deep into the planet’s interior.
Now even the public can vote for what features the JunoCam, the first interplanetary outreach camera, should aim at for a photshoot during each flyby.
Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016 and started sending closest ever pictures about the planet’s mysterious cloud tops — as close as about 2,600 miles (4,100 kilometers).