NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Spies Powerful Vortices Near Jupiter’s North Pole
NASA’s Juno spacecraft recently captured this striking view of vortices — hurricane-like spiral wind patterns — near Jupiter’s north pole. It happened as NASA’s Juno mission completed its 43rd close flyby of Jupiter on July 5, 2022, and the image data was captured by the JunoCam instrument.
These powerful Jovian storms can be over 30 miles (50 kilometers) in height and hundreds of miles across. Figuring out how they form is key to understanding Jupiter’s atmosphere, as well as the fluid dynamics and cloud chemistry that generate the planet’s other atmospheric features.
Scientists are particularly interested in the vortices’ varying colors, shapes, and sizes. For example, cyclones, which rotate counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern, and anti-cyclones, which spin clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere, exhibit very different colors and shapes.
Jovian Vortex Hunter, a NASA citizen science project, seeks help from volunteer members of the public to spot and help categorize vortices and other atmospheric phenomena visible in JunoCam photos of Jupiter. This process does not require specialized training or software. In fact, it can be done by anyone, anywhere, with a cellphone or laptop. As of July 2022, 2,404 volunteers had made 376,725 classifications using the Jovian Vortex Hunter project website.
Brian Swift, a citizen scientist, created this enhanced color and contrast view of vortices using raw JunoCam image data. At the time the raw image was taken, the Juno spacecraft was about 15,600 miles (25,100 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, at a latitude of about 84 degrees.
JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing. More information about NASA citizen science can be found at https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience and https://www.nasa.gov/solve/opportunities/citizenscience.