Jupiter awaits Junos arrival

Stunning new images and the highest-resolution maps to date of Jupiter at thermal infrared wavelengths give a glowing view of Juno’s target, a week ahead of the NASA mission’s arrival at the giant planet.

The maps reveal the present-day temperatures, composition and cloud coverage within Jupiter’s dynamic atmosphere, and show how giant storms, vortices and wave patterns shape the appearance of the giant planet.

The observations will be presented on Monday 27 June at the National Astronomy Meeting in Nottingham by Dr Leigh Fletcher of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The high-resolution maps and images were created from observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, using a newly-upgraded thermal imager called VISIR. The observations were taken between February and June 2016 to characterise Jupiter’s atmosphere ahead of Juno’s arrival.

Dr Fletcher and his team have also used the TEXES spectrograph on NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Hawaii regularly to map Jupiter’s changing appearance. The team made observations at many different wavelengths, optimised for different features and cloud layers in Jupiter’s atmosphere, to create the first global spectral maps of Jupiter taken from Earth.

Dr Fletcher said: “These maps will help set the scene for what Juno will witness in the coming months.  We have seen new weather phenomena that have been active on Jupiter throughout 2016."

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