NASA’s Juno mission checks out eclipse on Jupiter

One of of Galilean moons cast a giant shadow over Jupiter which was spotted by NASA’s Juno spacecraft


Pictures of Jupiter, taken by the Juno spacecraft, is commonly processed by citizen scientists to emphasise its details. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill/CC by 2.0

Don’t panic, this isn’t a massive hole on Jupiter.

All is well on our largest neighbour; NASA’s Juno spacecraft just managed to spot the shadow of Jupiter’s moon, Io, passing over its marbled clouds.

The Juno mission made its 22nd close skim over the gas giant around 11 September 2019, when the celestial geometry was just right for Io to slip between the Sun and the planet during one of its rapid-fire circuits of Jupiter. (The moon takes just 1.77 days to orbit the planet.)

Io is the most volcanic world in our solar system, thanks to heat generated by the close tug of Jupiter’s massive gravity. Of Jupiter’s four large moons, Io orbits closest to the planet, allowing it to cast a vast shadow on the gas giant.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter for more than three years, making a close approach every 53 days. Scientifically, the spacecraft’s priorities are a host of instruments that are designed to study the planet’s atmosphere and interior.

But also onboard Juno is a camera; All of the raw images that camera captures are uploaded online, where volunteer image processors get to work turning the raw files into something beautiful, informative, or both.

That means that while we wait for scientists to analyse the rest of Juno’s data, we can enjoy stunning images of Jupiter, like these eclipse shots. The images mimic photographs taken from space of eclipses here on Earth, when the moon’s shadow crosses the planet.

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