Jupiter, as never seen before: Juno completes its first orbit

Here is Jupiter, as no human eyes have ever seen it before:

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What’s remarkable is the viewing angle: Jupiter’s north polar region dominates the image, with the Great Red Spot only barely visible near the limb at the bottom of the image.  (The Spot is in the southern mid-latitudes of Jupiter, so a north polar view will not easily see it.)  This image was returned today by the Juno spacecraft, presently orbiting Jupiter in a highly elliptical and highly inclined orbit that gives it a unique vantage point on the giant planet.  Among the other things Juno will be studying is the previously unobserved polar regions — just as Cassini is now making major strides forward by concentrating on Saturn’s equally mysterious (and completely different) polar regions.  Juno took this image at a distance of 437,000 miles (703,000 kilometers), which in terms of the Jupiter system is extremely close; it’s nearly twice the distance between Earth and Moon, but Jupiter is vastly bigger than Earth, and its radiation brutally intense.  For comparison, this is only slightly further from Jupiter than Io’s orbit.  Juno will be diving closer in on subsequent orbits; this was just the first of a planned 36 orbits, and it takes time to safely tweak an orbit around so massive a primary.

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