CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - NASA's Juno spacecraft completed its fifth flyby over Jupiter's enigmatic cloud tops on Monday, March 27, at 4:52 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (8:52 UTC).
At the time of closest approach (called perijove), Juno came within 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) above the planet's cloud tops, traveling at a speed of about 129,000 miles per hour (57.8 kilometers per second) relative to the gas-giant planet. All of Juno's eight science instruments were collecting data during the flyby
During its mission, Juno will circle Jupiter a total of 36 times, soaring low over the planet's cloud tops. During these flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and explore the swirling clouds that form Jupiter’s colorful, trademark atmosphere.
The Juno science team continues to analyze returns from previous flybys. Scientists have discovered that Jupiter's magnetic fields are more complicated than originally thought and that the belts and zones that give the planet's cloud tops their distinctive look extend deep into their interior. Observations of the energetic particles that create the incandescent auroras suggest a complicated current system involving charged material lofted from volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io.
Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.
ABOVE IMAGE: Juno acquired this JunoCam image on Feb. 2, 2017 at an altitude of 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) above the giant planet’s cloud tops. This publicly selected target was simply titled “Dark Spot.” In ground-based images, it was difficult to tell that it is a dark storm.
Citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko enhanced the color to bring out the rich detail in the storm and surrounding clouds. Just south of the dark storm is a bright, oval-shaped storm with high, bright, white clouds, reminiscent of a swirling galaxy. As a final touch, he rotated the image 90 degrees, turning the picture into a work of art.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko