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Juno Completes Its Fourth Flyby of Jupiter

NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully completed a close flyby of Jupiter on February 2, 2017.

Cyclones swirl around the south pole, and white oval storms can be seen near the limb -- the apparent edge of the planet -- in this image of Jupiter’s south polar region taken by the JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The image was acquired on February 2, 2017, from an altitude of 47,600 miles (76,600 km) above Jupiter’s swirling cloud deck. Prior to the Feb. 2 flyby, the public was invited to vote for their favorite points of interest in the Jovian atmosphere for JunoCam to image. The point of interest captured here was titled ‘Jovian Antarctica’ by a member of the public, in reference to Earth’s Antarctica. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS.

Cyclones swirl around the south pole, and white oval storms can be seen near the limb — the apparent edge of the planet — in this image of Jupiter’s south polar region taken by the JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The image was acquired on February 2, 2017, from an altitude of 47,600 miles (76,600 km) above Jupiter’s swirling cloud deck. Prior to the Feb. 2 flyby, the public was invited to vote for their favorite points of interest in the Jovian atmosphere for JunoCam to image. The point of interest captured here was titled ‘Jovian Antarctica’ by a member of the public, in reference to Earth’s Antarctica. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS.

At the time of closest approach (perijove), Juno was about 2,670 miles (4,300 km) above the planet’s cloud tops.

All of Juno’s eight science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby to collect data that is now being returned to Earth.

“It’s never Groundhog Day when you are flying past Jupiter. With every close flyby we are finding something new,” said Juno principal investigator Dr. Scott Bolton, from the Southwest Research Institute.

The Juno science team continues to analyze returns from previous flybys.

Revelations include 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.

Several papers with more in-depth results from Juno’s first three flybys are expected to be published within the next few months.

Also, JunoCam, the first interplanetary outreach camera, is now being guided with the assistance from the public.

Jupiter’s north pole. This image was acquired by the JunoCam imager on February 2, 2017. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS.

Jupiter’s north pole. This image was acquired by the JunoCam imager on February 2, 2017. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS.

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

During its mission of exploration, the orbiter soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,600 miles (4,100 km).

During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Juno is currently in a 53-day orbit, and its next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on March 27, 2017.