/ Modified nov 29, 2016 4:11 p.m.

Jupiter Spacecraft Captures Image of Towering Polar Storms

First pass of giant planet nets unexpected scientific data

Jupiter pole NASA's Juno spacecraft took this image of swirling cyclones at Jupiter's north pole in August 2016.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

A spacecraft taking pictures of Jupiter with a camera that a Tucson-based scientist manages has sent back pictures of a storm that would dwarf any earthbound hurricane.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft made a first pass by Jupiter in August, and its instruments were turned on just to test them. The camera pictured a storm more than half the size of Earth.

Candice Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson says what her camera captured amazed everyone.

"We always thought we would do some science with JunoCam," she said.

Hansen says the camera’s main purpose is to connect the public to the space mission by asking for online voting on what will be photographed.

Jupiter storms Storms larger than half the size of Earth at Jupiter's north pole.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Mission leader Scott Bolton says the data returned by the camera and other instruments is providing new information about Jupiter.

“We’ve never been this close to Jupiter. Each data set is remarkably unique and discovery-like. We’re seeing things that we didn’t expect across the board,” Bolton said.

The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for at least the next 14 months, sending back pictures and other data.

Arizona Science Desk
This story is from the Arizona Science Desk, a collaborative of the state's public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Arizona Science Desk.
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