The Rings of Jupiter


Bonus:  A look at the constellation of Orion from Jupiter through the eyes of the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU-1) aboard the Juno spacecraft.

We don’t hear too much about the rings around Jupiter but they are there and are quite interesting – see our Jupiter page.

Can’t see Orion?  No problem, take a look at this then come back and look again.  It should stand right out for you (hopefully).

NASA –   As NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew through the narrow gap between Jupiter’s radiation belts and the planet during its first science flyby, Perijove 1, on August 27, 2016, the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU-1) star camera collected the first image of Jupiter’s ring taken from the inside looking out. The bright bands in the center of the image are the main ring of Jupiter’s ring system.

While taking the ring image, the SRU was viewing the constellation Orion. The bright star above the main ring is Betelgeuse, and Orion’s belt can be seen in the lower right. Juno’s Radiation Monitoring Investigation actively retrieves and analyzes the noise signatures from penetrating radiation in the images of the spacecraft’s star cameras and science instruments at Jupiter.

JunoCam’s raw images are available at for the public to peruse and process into image products.

Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI

Plasma Sounds at Jupiter

The above display is a frequency-time spectrogram. The results in this figure show an increasing plasma density as Juno descended into Jupiter’s ionosphere during its close pass by Jupiter on 02 February 2017.

The intensity, or amplitude, of the waves is displayed based on the color scale shown on the right. The actual observed frequencies of these emissions approach 150 kHz. To get the sounds into a range we can hear, the 150 kHz signal was reduced 60 times. The momentary, nearly pure tones follow a scale related to the electron density, and are likely associated with an interaction between the Juno spacecraft and the charged particles in Jupiter’s ionosphere. The exact source of these discrete tones is currently being investigated.

Take a Ride Into Space

This ride into space was from 28 May 2014 aboard a Soyuz spacecraft with SA astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman under the command of Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev.

Juno Mission Early Findings

The south pole of Jupiter as seen from the Juno spacecraft at a distance of 52,000 km / 32,000 miles and another great JunoCam contribution. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

We are getting a bit of information about the findings. Can’t wait for the details!

JUNO – Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet’s surface than previously thought.

“We are excited to share these early discoveries, which help us better understand what makes Jupiter so fascinating,” said Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It was a long trip to get to Jupiter, but these first results already demonstrate it was well worth the journey.”

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, entering Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. The findings from the first data-collection pass, which flew within about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) of Jupiter’s swirling cloud tops on Aug. 27, are being published this week in two papers in the journal Science, as well as 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters.

“We knew, going in, that Jupiter would throw us some curves,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “But now that we are here we are finding that Jupiter can throw the heat, as well as knuckleballs and sliders. There is so much going on here that we didn’t expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter.”

Among the findings that challenge assumptions are those provided by Juno’s imager, JunoCam. The images show both of Jupiter’s poles are covered in Earth-sized swirling storms that are densely clustered and rubbing together.

“We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

Another surprise comes from Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR), which samples the thermal microwave radiation from Jupiter’s atmosphere, from the top of the ammonia clouds to deep within its atmosphere. The MWR data indicates that Jupiter’s iconic belts and zones are mysterious, with the belt near the equator penetrating all the way down, while the belts and zones at other latitudes seem to evolve to other structures. The data suggest the ammonia is quite variable and continues to increase as far down as we can see with MWR, which is a few hundred miles or kilometers.

Prior to the Juno mission, it was known that Jupiter had the most intense magnetic field in the solar system. Measurements of the massive planet’s magnetosphere, from Juno’s magnetometer investigation (MAG), indicate that Jupiter’s magnetic field is even stronger than models expected, and more irregular in shape. MAG data indicates the magnetic field greatly exceeded expectations at 7.766 Gauss, about 10 times stronger than the strongest magnetic field found on Earth.

“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and the lead for the mission’s magnetic field investigation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others. This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen. Every flyby we execute gets us closer to determining where and how Jupiter’s dynamo works.”

Juno also is designed to study the polar magnetosphere and the origin of Jupiter’s powerful auroras—its northern and southern lights. These auroral emissions are caused by particles that pick up energy, slamming into atmospheric molecules. Juno’s initial observations indicate that the process seems to work differently at Jupiter than at Earth.

Juno is in a polar orbit around Jupiter, and the majority of each orbit is spent well away from the gas giant. But, once every 53 days, its trajectory approaches Jupiter from above its north pole, where it begins a two-hour transit (from pole to pole) flying north to south with its eight science instruments collecting data and its JunoCam public outreach camera snapping pictures. The download of six megabytes of data collected during the transit can take 1.5 days.

“Every 53 days, we go screaming by Jupiter, get doused by a fire hose of Jovian science, and there is always something new,” said Bolton. “On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system — one that every school kid knows — Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments.”

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for NASA. The principal investigator is Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in Denver, built the spacecraft.

Icy Crescent

The plumes of Enceladus are not visible in this shot. The geometry between the Cassini spacecraft, Enceladus, and Saturn allows for the illimuation of the moon by “Saturn-shine” but it also puts the region of those southern plumes in what we could call “deep shadow”. The effect can be illustrated By increasing the exposure on the image – see here.

Here’s the original caption:
The low angle of sunlight along the slim crescent of Saturn’s moon Enceladus (313 miles or 504 kilometers across) highlights the many fractures and furrows on its icy surface.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Enceladus, which is dimly illuminated in the image above by sunlight reflected off Saturn. North on Enceladus is up and rotated 14 degrees to the left. The image was taken in visible light with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 26, 2016.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 104,000 miles (168,000 kilometers) from Enceladus. Image scale is 3,303 feet (1 kilometer) per pixel.

Ceres at Opposition

Ceres diameter:  945 km / 587 miles.  Ceres is estimated to contain almost a third of mass of the entire asteroid belt.  Those movies with the spaceship having to do thrilling flying to get through the asteroid belt are far from being accurate.

NASA – This enhanced color image of Ceres’ surface was made from data obtained on April 29, 2017, when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was exactly between the sun and Ceres. Dawn’s framing cameras took images of Ceres with a clear filter as well as five different color filters.

Images combining these different color filter perspectives reveal fine details of Ceres’ surface. For example, they emphasize the distinct compositions and textures of the material ejected from craters. The brightest region on Ceres, called Cerealia Facula, is highlighted in Occator Crater in the center of this image. Vinalia Faculae, the set of secondary bright spots in the same crater, are located to the right of Cerealia Facula.

One of the darkest regions on Ceres is next to Occator, and represents ejected material from the impact that formed the crater. The ejected material forms a large arc that extends over several hundred kilometers, below the center of Ceres in this image. That material’s distribution is partly determined by Ceres’ rotation.

Other craters also show a mixture of bright and dark regions. While the bright areas are generally identified as salt-rich material excavated from Ceres’ crust, the origin of the dark material remains to be explained. It may have been excavated from a different layer within Ceres’ subsurface than the rest of the ejecta blanket. Scientists will continue analyzing the color data to look for clues about the nature of the different materials on Ceres.

The blueish color is generally found in association with young craters. Scientists believe the color relates to processes that occur when an impact ejects and redistributes material on the surface. The continuous bombardment of Ceres’ surface by micrometeorites alters the texture of the exposed material, leading to its reddening.

This image was taken altitude of about 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers). See the Dawn Journal for more detail about this opposition observation.

For more information about the Dawn mission, visit

Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA


Juno Completes Perijove 6

Juno has completed Perijove 6, the sixth orbit around the planet Jupiter.  The image above is from the previous close pass and was processed by J.P. Hershey one of many citizen scientists processing the images from Juno data.

This data is available to anyone; everyone is encouraged to try their hand at processing and submit their entries.  You can too, just go to NASA’s JunoCam page.  I have made some rather primitive attempts with rather primitive results.  The problem is my knowledge of the program I am using (The GIMP), I am more used to Photoshop CS.  The newest images, from Perijove 6 are already downloaded and available.  Interesting, the images are down and ready before too much of the details of the pass are.  Probably this is due to the pass timing with the weekend.  All seems good, I’m sure we’d know by now if something was amiss.

So, undaunted, I have downloaded a set of images and am trying again.




Data Relay Box Fails on ISS

That’s why there are back-ups!
NASA/Mark Garcia — International Space Station managers will meet Sunday morning to discuss a forward plan for dealing with the apparent failure of one of two fully redundant multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) data relay boxes on the S0 truss of the complex.

External MDM-1 apparently failed at 1:13 p.m. Central time Saturday. Multiple attempts by flight controllers to restore power to the relay box have not been successful. Troubleshooting efforts are continuing. The Expedition 51 crew was informed of the apparent failure and is not in any danger. The MDMs on the truss control the functionality of the station’s solar arrays and radiators among other equipment, and provide power to a variety of other station components.

Because the two MDMs have full redundancy, the apparent loss of MDM-1 has had no impact on station operations.

The image at flickr.