New earthbased images prepare for Junos encounter with Jupiters Great Red Spot

A space scientist from our Department of Physics and Astronomy has been involved in new Jupiter imagery from two telescopes in Hawaii that is providing context for upcoming close-ups of the Great Red Spot by NASA's Juno spacecraft.

Dr Leigh Fletcher is part of the collaborative team supporting the Juno mission with Earth-based observations. The University of Leicester is also home to the only formal UK science lead for the Juno mission.

Dr Fletcher said: “In just a few days’ time, on 11 July 2017, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will perform the closest-ever views of the swirling maelstrom known as Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. It was always hoped that the pre-planned polar orbit and close perijove passes would take the spacecraft over the storm, but the slow and somewhat unpredictable westward motion of the gigantic vortex meant that a little luck would be required. That luck comes in on Perijove 7, and we’ll be rewarded by breathtaking views – so close that the vortex will stretch from jovian horizon to jovian horizon.

“In preparation for that encounter, myself and others have been collaborating on an Earth-based support campaign, capturing multi-wavelength views of the jovian atmosphere to provide spatial, temporal and spectral context for Juno’s close-in encounters. These images show the Great Red Spot as it was just a few weeks ago, and prepare us for Juno’s close-in views.”

High-resolution thermal imaging of Jupiter by the COoled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrometer (COMICS) mounted on the Subaru Telescope on Maunakea is providing information that extends and enhances the information that the Juno mission is gathering in its unprecedented mission to probe that planet's interior and deep atmospheric structure together with details of the magnetosphere and its auroral interactions with the planet.

Another set of supporting observations that were simultaneous with the Subaru observations were made by the Gemini North telescope's NIRI instrument, which imaged Jupiter in the near-infrared, measuring reflected sunlight from cloud and haze particle in Jupiter's upper troposphere and lower stratosphere ‒ levels generally higher in Jupiter's  atmosphere  than  most  of  the  Subaru  measurements,  providing  complementary  information.

Dr Fletcher has published a blog on the new images on his Leicester to Jupiter Staff Blog.