It's Time for Jupiter's Annual Checkup by Hubble

Jupiter as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope on January 5 and 6, 2024. Credit: NASA/ESA/Space Telescope Science Institute.

Each year, the Hubble Space Telescope focuses on the giant planets in our Solar System when they’re near the closest point to Earth, which means they’ll be large and bright in the sky. Jupiter had its photos taken on January 5-6th, 2024, showing off both sides of the planet. Hubble was looking for storm activity and changes in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

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NASA’s Juno Probe Makes Another Close Flyby of Io

Processed image taken by JunoCam on Feb. 3rd, 2024, during the probe's second close flyby of Jupiter’s moon Io. Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS

The Juno spacecraft has revealed some fascinating things about Jupiter since it began exploring the system on July 4th, 2016. Not only is it the first robotic mission to study Jupiter up close while orbiting it since the Galileo spacecraft, which studied the gas giant and its satellites from 1995 to 2003. Juno is also the first robotic explorer to look below Jupiter’s dense clouds to investigate the planet’s magnetic field, composition, and structure. The data this has produced is helping scientists address questions about how Jupiter formed and the origins of the Solar System.

Since 2021, the probe has been in an extended mission phase, where it has been making flybys of some of Jupiter’s largest moons, including Ganymede, Europa, and Io. As it passes these satellites, Juno has captured some incredible images with its main imaging instrument, the JunoCam. On Saturday, February 3rd, 2024, the Juno spacecraft made another flyby of Io and took more captivating photos of the volcanic moon and its pockmarked surface. This was the second part of a twin flyby designed to provide new insight into Io’s volcanic nature and the interior structure of the satellite.

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Astronomers Test an Exoplanet Instrument on Jupiter

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this view of Jupiter during the mission’s 40th close pass by the giant planet on Feb. 25, 2022. The large, dark shadow on the left side of the image was cast by Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Thomas Thomopoulos

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has a high-resolution spectrograph called  ESPRESSO, designed specifically to detecting and characterize exoplanets. Astronomers recently ran a test with the instrument, studying the atmosphere and winds of Jupiter. They used a technique called Doppler velocimetry to measure the reflection of light from the Sun in the planet’s clouds, allowing for instantaneous measurement of the clouds’ wind speeds. The technique has also been used on Venus and will guide the future study of exoplanets.

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Juno Makes its Closest Flyby of Io

NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this image of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Kevin Gill

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been getting closer and closer to Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io with each recent orbit. Juno is in its 57th orbit of Jupiter, and on December 30th, Juno came to within 1500 km (930 miles) of Io’s surface. It’s been more than 20 years since a spacecraft came this close.

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Juno Spots Salts and Organic Molecules on Ganymede’s Surface

Enhanced image of Ganymede taken by the JunoCam during the mission's flyby on June 7th, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kalleheikki Kannisto

NASA’s Juno mission continues to orbit Jupiter, gathering data on its atmosphere, composition, gravitational field, magnetic field, and radiation environment. This data is helping scientists to learn more about the planet’s formation, internal structure, mass distribution, and what is driving its powerful winds. Periodically, the spacecraft also performs flybys of Jupiter’s largest satellites (the Galilean Moons), acquiring stunning images and vital data on their surfaces. These include optical and thermal images of Io’s many active volcanoes, Europa’s icy terrain, and infrared images of Ganymede.

During its last flyby of Ganymede (June 7th, 2021), Juno collected infrared images and spectra on the moon’s surface using its Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument. According to a recent study by an international team of researchers, this data revealed the presence of salt minerals and organic molecules on the icy moon’s surface. The findings could help scientists better understand the origin of Ganymede, the composition of its interior ocean, and the way material is exchanged between the surface and interior. In short, it could help scientists determine if life exists deep inside Ganymede’s ocean.

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Jupiter Looks Bizarre in Hubble's New Ultraviolet Image

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals an ultraviolet view of Jupiter. NASA, ESA, and M. Wong (University of California - Berkeley); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Jupiter has gone pastel!

Check out this ultra-cool image of Jupiter taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. This is a color composite picture of Jupiter seen in ultraviolet, which reveals different features in Jupiter’s atmosphere. One feature that stands out is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — it is blue in this image!

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JWST Takes a Detailed Look at Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede

Juno captured this image of Ganymede in July 2022. Now the JWST is taking a look at our Solar System's largest moon. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

Nature doesn’t conform to our ideas of neatly-contained categories. Many things in nature blur the lines we try to draw around them. That’s true of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System.

The JWST took a closer look at Ganymede, the moon that’s kind of like a planet, to understand its surface better.

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A New Weather Feature was Hiding in JWST’s Picture of Jupiter

Image of Jupiter taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) in July 2022 displays striking features of the largest planet in the solar system in infrared light, with brightness indicating high altitudes. One of these features is a jet stream within the large bright band just above Jupiter’s equator, which was the focus of this study. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, R. Hueso (University of the Basque Country), I. de Pater (University of California, Berkeley), T. Fouchet (Observatory of Paris), L. Fletcher (University of Leicester), M. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), J. DePasquale (STScI))

In July 2022, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) used its NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) to capture stunning infrared images of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. Within these striking images, scientists recently discovered a jet stream in the northern latitudes just over Jupiter’s equator and 20-35 kilometers (12-21 miles) above Jupiter’s cloud tops. This jet stream stretches approximately 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles) with speeds of 515 kilometers per hour (320 miles per hour), more than double the speed of a Category 5 hurricane on Earth.

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Exploring Io’s Volcanic Activity via Hubble and Webb Telescopes

Concept image of the various features within Jupiter’s surrounding environment that this new science campaign will examine, including its massive magnetic field, along with Io’s neutral clouds and plasma torus. (Credit: Southwest Research Institute/John Spencer)

The two most powerful space telescopes ever built, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and Hubble Space Telescope, are about to gather data about the most volcanically body in the entire solar system, Jupiter’s first Galilean Moon, Io. This data will be used in combination with upcoming flybys of Io by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which is currently surveying the Jupiter system and is slated to conduct these flybys later this year and early 2024. The purpose of examining this small, volcanic moon with these two powerful telescopes and one orbiting spacecraft is for scientists to gain a better understanding of how Io’s escaping atmosphere interacts with Jupiter’s surrounding magnetic and plasma environment.

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Jupiter’s Moons Get the JWST Treatment

Spectroscopic map of Ganymede (left) obtained from JWST’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument displaying light absorption in the polar regions distinctive of the molecule hydrogen peroxide. A JWST NIRSpec infrared image of Io (right) displaying volcanic eruptions at Kanehekili Fluctus (center) and Loki Patera (right) with temperatures up to 1200 Kelvin (926.85 degrees Celsius/1700 degrees Fahrenheit). Circles indicate the surfaces of both moons. (Credit: Ganymede: Cornell/Dr. Samantha Trumbo; Io: UC Berkeley/Dr. Imke de Pater)

A pair of studies published in JGR: Planets and Science Advances discuss new findings from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) regarding Jupiter’s first and third Galilean Moons, Io and Ganymede, and more specifically, how the massive Jupiter is influencing activity on these two small worlds. For Io, whose mass is about 21 percent larger than Earth’s Moon, the researchers made the first discovery of sulfur monoxide (SO) gas on the volcanically active moon. For Ganymede, which is the largest moon in the solar system and boasts twice the mass of the Earth’s Moon, the researchers made the first discovery of hydrogen peroxide, which exists in Ganymede’s polar regions.

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