Juno, winning the race, pole to pole
NASA’s Juno probe is beginning to return data from its close-up views of Jupiter. Entering orbit around the gas giant on July 4, 2016, the craft maneuvered into its current pole-to-pole transits on August 27, achieving a low altitude of 4,200 kilometers (2,600 miles) above the Jovian cloud tops. Now, NASA has published the first 2 papers based on the data collected on that earliest fly-by.
So far, Juno has helped determine that Jupiter’s magnetic field is much less uniform, almost “lumpy”, which could indicate that it is generated much higher than the planetary core and thus subject to the planet’s dynamic atmospheric systems. Those systems are also coming under scrutiny, with the belts showing differing thicknesses (equatorial belt going down to the surface, while belts at other latitudes dissolve into other structures at depth).
Juno’s orbit swings around Jupiter every 53 days, spends 2 hours in proximity gathering data, and the 6 megabytes of data collected require 1.5 days to download. “Every 53 days, we go screaming by Jupiter, get doused with a fire hose of Jovian science, and there’s always something new,” says Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the principal investigator for the Juno mission. Up next is a fly-by of the Great Red Spot on July 11.