NASA's Juno spacecraft whizzes closely by Jupiter

NASA's Juno spacecraft whizzes closely by Jupiter

"This will be our fourth science pass-the fifth close flyby of Jupiter of the mission-and we are excited to see what new discoveries Juno will reveal", said mission principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas in a public statement.

The image was captured by JunoCam on February 2, 2017, at 5:13 am PDT (8:13 a.m. EDT) from a distance of 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) above the giant planet's cloud tops.

This new image, processed by amateur astronomer Roman Tkachenko, shows Jupiter's north pole in all its stormy glory.

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NASA's JUNO spacecraft was launched on August 5, 2011 atop the Atlas V at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

All of Juno's eight science instruments were up and running, collecting data about the planet's atmosphere, electromagnetic fields and gravity.

According to it, Juno's instruments were fully functional during the flyby. Scientists have discovered that Jupiter's magnetic fields are more complicated than originally thought and that the belts and zones that give the planet's cloud tops their distinctive look extend deep into their interior.

On Monday, NASA revealed some incredible new images of Jupiter as they were captured by Juno.

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The decision avoids using the suspect propulsion system and keeps Juno out of Jupiter's shadow through 2019, when the spacecraft's power-generating solar panels might otherwise have been robbed of sunlight.

The longer orbit period means science data will trickle down to Earth once every 53 days, when Juno is positioned to make its most revealing observations. It also slows Juno's exposure to harmful radiation, a known threat engineers have identified as most likely to eventually end the mission.

While NASA had initially planned to send Juno into a closer orbit of just 14 days, those plans had to be scrapped in February due to problems with two of its helium valves. It arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

The Juno science team continues to analyse returns from previous flybys.

This was the "fifth close flyby of Jupiter of the mission".

He said NASA will invite outside scientists specializing in heliophysics to join the Juno science team and "complement the mission".

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