Juno images of Jupiter’s north pole surprise scientists

NASA’s Juno spacecraft snapped photos of Jupiter’s north pole during a six-hour fly-by on Aug. 27, and scientists are excited by the images that have been transmitted from the solar system’s largest planet.

"First glimpse of Jupiter's north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before," Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement. "It's bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms. There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to — this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We're seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features."

The spacecraft dipped to within 2,500 miles above Jupiter's clouds, DigitalTrends.com reported. It took NASA a day-and-a-half to download six megabytes of data transmitted back to Earth. Scientists said it would take more time to analyze all of the information, but NASA released the first group of images over the weekend.

JunoCam, the onboard camera, noted that there was a difference between the north poles of Jupiter and Saturn. While Saturn’s north pole is accented by a hexagonal formation, Jupiter’s is not.

“The largest planet in our solar system is truly unique,” Bolton said.

JunoCam was one of eight instruments activated during the fly-by. The Jovian Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) caught glimpses of the Jupiter’s poles in infrared.

Juno has 35 more fly-bys scheduled for the next 20 months, before the probe dives to its demise in Jupiter’s clouds.