NASA’s Juno probe continues to beam back stunning pictures of Jupiter and its turbulent atmosphere. One of the latest shows the Great Red Spot in an image captured 21 December during the spacecraft’s most recent close approach. The photo also shows another large storm, dubbed Oval BA, that reached its current size when three smaller storms collided and merged together in 2000. Oval BA has changed shape over the years and changed from reddish brown to a more uniform white, according to NASA. This colour view is made up of three images captured when Juno was between about 23,800 miles to 34,500 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops. The image was processed by citizen-scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran.
Concerns about the health of the Juno spacecraft’s main engine have compelled NASA managers to keep the research probe in its current arcing, high-altitude orbit around Jupiter, a decision that will delay the full science return from the $1.1 billion mission but should still allow it to meet all predetermined objectives.
Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanically active world in the solar system, with hundreds of volcanoes, some erupting lava fountains up to 250 miles high. New NASA research suggests that tides flowing in a subsurface ocean of molten rock, or magma, could explain why Io’s volcanoes appear in the “wrong” place compared to models that predict how the moon’s interior is heated.
In the small hours of Friday, 16 October, innermost planet Mercury reaches its greatest westerly elongation from the Sun. For those of you in the UK with a flat, unobscured eastern horizon and willing to get up an hour before sunrise, the next few days provide your best opportunity to see Mercury from the Northern Hemisphere during 2015.