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NASA's Juno spacecraft has beamed home the first-ever photos of Jupiter's north pole, and scientists can hardly believe their eyes.
"It's bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms," Bolton added. "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."
Saturn has a huge hexagonal storm swirling at its north pole. But Jupiter lacks such a vortex, the new photos show.
"There is nothing on Jupiter that anywhere near resembles that," Bolton said. "The largest planet in our solar system is truly unique. We have 36 more flybys to study just how unique it really is."
The $1.1 billion Juno mission launched in August 2011 and reached Jupiter nearly five years later, on July 4 of this year. But Juno's instruments were turned off on this latter date, because mission team members wanted to focus on executing the make-or-break, 35-minute orbit-insertion burn.
Juno is scheduled to perform another engine burn that will shift the probe into a 14-day-long orbit. The spacecraft will continue gathering data — especially during its close flybys over the planet's poles — before ending its mission with an intentional death dive into Jupiter's atmosphere in February 2018.
2016.09.04 / 11:59