Let NASA know what you want to see on Jupiter

NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft has sent back its first pictures since arriving at Jupiter, but the space agency needs the world’s amateur astronomers to figure out where to point the camera next.

An image taken from orbit more than 4 million kilometers away released July 12 shows Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, surrounded by three of its four largest moons. But Juno’s about to get a lot closer, coming within 5,000 kilometers of Jupiter’s highest clouds. That’s when the really cool pictures can be taken.

You can suggest points of interest on the planet for Juno to photograph, and community voting will determine where the spacecraft snaps its images, according to Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, a scientist at Planetary Science Institute responsible for JunoCam, the color camera instrument on Juno.

To participate in the mission, visit JunoCam’s website to find tutorials and software, and upload your own telescopic images of Jupiter.

Juno entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4 after a five-year journey. It’s on a 20-month mission to map the giant planet’s poles, atmosphere and interior, and tell us more about how planets in our solar system — including our own — came into being.

Juno by the numbers

  • 2.8 billion kilometers: Distance traveled from launch to arrival at Jupiter.
  • 48 minutes: Approximate time it takes for radio signals from Earth to reach the Juno spacecraft.
  • Nine: Instruments on board to explore Jupiter from its interior to its atmosphere. It will map Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields and track how much water is in the atmosphere. JunoCam will snap close-ups of Jupiter’s swirling clouds, polar regions and shimmering southern and northern lights.

This article draws on reports from The Associated Press.