Storm systems and weather activity unlike anything encountered in the solar system are on view in these color images of Jupiter’s north polar region from NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
Two versions of the image have been contrast-enhanced differently to bring out detail near the dark terminator and near the bright limb.
The JunoCam instrument took the images to create this color view on August 27, when the spacecraft was about 48,000 miles (78,000 kilometers) above the polar cloud tops.
A wavy boundary is visible halfway between the grayish region at left (closer to the pole and the nightside shadow) and the lighter-colored area on the right. The wavy appearance of the boundary represents a Rossby wave — a north-south meandering of a predominantly east-west flow in an atmospheric jet. This may be caused by a difference in temperature between air to the north and south of this boundary, as is often the case with such waves in Earth’s atmosphere.
The polar region is filled with a variety of discrete atmospheric features. Some of these are ovals, but the larger and brighter features have a “pinwheel” shape reminiscent of the shape of terrestrial hurricanes. Tracking the motion and evolution of these features across multiple orbits will provide clues about the
dynamics of the Jovian atmosphere.
This image also provides the first example of cloud shadowing on Jupiter: near the top of the image, a high cloud feature is seen past the normal boundary between day and night, illuminated above the cloud deck below.
While subtle color differences are visible in the image, some of these are likely the result of scattered light within the JunoCam optics. Work is ongoing to characterize these effects.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS