Space Mission: What’s Up with Juno?

Image (Credit): Image from “Where is Juno” earlier today showing its approximate location in relation to other bodies in the solar system. (NASA)

Are we witnessing the slow blinding of the Juno spacecraft? NASA is having trouble receiving images from the spacecraft’s solar-powered JunoCam. As a result, of the 258 images recently obtained by NASA, only 44 were usable. NASA is still investigating this issue and hopes to come up with a way to mitigate it.

Launched in August 2011, Juno has been a reliable workhorse studying the secrets of Jupiter while also capturing amazing images of the planet and its 80+ moons since it entered into Jovian orbit on July 4, 2016. Its extended mission was supposed to last until September 2025, harvesting additional data to assist NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission as well as the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission.

While Juno has numerous scientific instruments that are still plugging away producing key data on Jupiter and its surroundings, the images were an important link between the mission and the public. The images shown below are just a small sample of what has been sent back (click here for more). It will be a sad day when we can no longer see the Jovian neighborhood in this way.

Image (Credit): The shadow of the moon Io on Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)
Image (Credit): The surface of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)
Image (Credit): Jupiter’s south pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/John Landino)

Space Stories: Passing of Apollo Astronaut Walter Cunningham, Opal on Mars, and Juno Recovers

Image (Credit): Walter Cunningham adjusts his pressure suit before the Apollo 7 launch on October 11, 1968. (NASA)

Here are some recent stories of interest.

NASA: “Apollo Astronaut Walter Cunningham Dies at 90

Former astronaut Walter Cunningham, who flew into space on Apollo 7, the first flight with crew in NASA’s Apollo Program, died early Tuesday morning in Houston. He was 90 years old. “Walt Cunningham was a fighter pilot, physicist, and an entrepreneur – but, above all, he was an explorer. On Apollo 7, the first launch of a crewed Apollo mission, Walt and his crewmates made history, paving the way for the Artemis Generation we see today,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “NASA will always remember his contributions to our nation’s space program and sends our condolences to the Cunningham family.”

New Atlas: “Curiosity Finds Opal on Mars – a Possible Water Source for Astronauts

NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered opal on Mars. The deposits may prove to be valuable to future Martian explorers not as jewelry but as a potential source of water. Opal is formed when water weathers silica-rich rocks, forming a solution that settles into cracks and crevices in the rock. Over time, this solution hardens into a solid lump that can be cloudy and dull or a dazzling display of color. Most supplies come from either Australia or Ethiopia, but now a new source has been discovered – Mars. “Juno Spacecraft Recovering its Memory After Mind-blowing Jupiter Flyby, NASA Says

NASA’s Juno probe is continuing to recover its memory at Jupiter after a data disruption interrupted communications between the spacecraft and its operators on Earth following a flyby of the giant planet in December. The Juno spacecraft’s latest flyby of Jupiter, its 47th close pass of the planet, was completed on Dec. 14. But as its operators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were receiving science data from the flyby they found they could no longer directly access the spacecraft’s memory. The team successfully rebooted Juno’s computer and on Dec. 17 they placed the spacecraft into “safe mode” with only essential systems operating as a precaution. 

Pic of the Week: Juno and Europa

Image (Credit): Jupiter’s moon Europa. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Björn Jónsson CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This week’s image is from NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter and its moons. It is a beautiful image of Europa from the spacecraft’s Junocam. Europa is one of 80 known moons orbiting its host planet.

Here is a little more from NASA about this image:

JunoCam took its closest image at an altitude of 945 miles (1,521 kilometers) over a region of the moon called Annwn Regio. In the image, terrain beside the day-night boundary is revealed to be rugged, with pits and troughs. Numerous bright and dark ridges and bands stretch across a fractured surface, revealing the tectonic stresses that the moon has endured over millennia. The circular dark feature in the lower right is Callanish Crater.

Such JunoCam images help fill in gaps in the maps from images obtained by NASA’s Voyager and Galileo missions. Citizen scientist Björn Jónsson processed the image to enhance the color and contrast. The resolution is about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel.

To learn more about JunoCam submissions go here.

Space Stories: Apps, Jupiter, and Exoplanets

Image (Credit): This enhanced color view of Jupiter’s south pole was created by citizen scientist Gabriel Fiset using data from the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset)

Here are some recent stories of interest. Best Astronomy Apps for Stargazing This Summer

Thanks to these astronomy apps, you can use your phone to see which stars and constellations are above you in real time, day or night. Whether you’re planning on stargazing, are curious about which constellations are in your location, or simply want to flex on your family and friends around the campfire, the following apps can show you what you’re seeing in the sky. Jupiter Doesn’t Have Rings Like Saturn

To understand the reason Jupiter currently looks the way it does, Kane and his graduate student Zhexing Li ran a dynamic computer simulation accounting for the orbits of Jupiter’s four main moons, as well as the orbit of the planet itself, and information about the time it takes for rings to form. Their results are detailed here, soon to be published in the Planetary Science journal. New Method to Detect Exoplanets

In recent years, a large number of exoplanets have been found around single ‘normal’ stars. New research shows that there may be exceptions to this trend. Researchers suggest a new way of detecting dim bodies, including planets, orbiting exotic binary stars known as Cataclysmic Variables (CVs).

Pic of the Week: Jupiter and the Juno Spacecraft

Source: Jupiter image from NASA.

The image above was taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on June 8, 2021. You can watch the full flyby video here that starts with the Juno spacecraft going past Jupiter’s moon Ganymede on June 7, 2021 before moving onto Jupiter. The violence of the storms in Jupiter’s atmosphere are smoothed into the beautiful giant marble we see from a great distance.

Launched by NASA in 2011, Juno’s goal is to improve our understanding of the solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter. With its primary mission completed last July, the spacecraft will continue to operate through at least 2025 by continuing to observe Jupiter, its rings, and its moons.