The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States on Friday received the first-ever images of Jupiter’s North Pole from its Juno spacecraft, which is currently in orbit around the gas giant, the agency reported. The images were collected after the spacecraft’s first successful orbital flyby of the planet on August 27 when it reached a low point of just 4,200 kilometres above the planet’s cloud formations.
Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton said scientists had already made unique discoveries about the planet’s pole, even as they continue to analyse the data sent back by Juno. “It’s bluer in colour up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms,” Bolton said, adding that the images sent back are “hardly recognisable as Jupiter”. He further said the images showed Jupiter’s clouds had shadows, indicating they were at a “higher altitude than other features”.
The NASA probe will execute 36 other flybys of Jupiter before it is deactivated and destroyed by being crashed into the planet, The Guardian reported. Scientists hope to gain more information on the planet and its structure during the orbital passes, including on whether it has a solid core and if it hides water beneath its clouds. Juno, which settled into orbit around the fifth planet from the Sun in July, had earlier sent a picture of the gaseous body along with its three moons.