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.
If you’re an early riser in the British Isles, let the waning crescent Moon be your guide to three naked-eye planets – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – at dawn on 18 and 19 March 2020. This celestial conjunction occurs in the constellation of Sagittarius where you can see all four Solar System bodies within the span of a fist at arm’s length. Look for attractive binocular conjunctions too.
A team of scientists has documented atmospheric changes on Io, Jupiter’s volcanically active satellite, as the giant planet casts its shadow over the moon during daily eclipses. Io’s thin atmosphere collapses as the sulfur dioxide gas emitted from volcanoes freezes when shaded by Jupiter. The atmosphere reforms when Io moves out of eclipse and the ice sublimates.
On 4 July, NASA will fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles of the cloud tops of our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter. Over the past two weeks, several milestones occurred that were key to a successful 35-minute burn of its rocket motor, which will place the robotic explorer into a polar orbit around the gas giant.