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Ghostlike noise, colourful auroras: Nasa captures Jupiter’s sound and light

world Updated: Sep 03, 2016 13:44 IST
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The JunoCam instrument obtained this view on August 27, about two hours before closest approach, when the spacecraft was 120,000 miles (195,000 kilometers) away from the giant planet (i.e., for Jupiter’s center). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

The NASA published on Friday the first-ever images of Jupiter’s north pole, its southern aurora and also ‘ghostly-sounding transmissions’ captured during the Juno spacecraft’s first orbital flyby of the gaseous giant.

Juno came within 2,500 miles (4,200km) of Jupiter on August 27 during a six-hour transit from the north pole to the south.

The JunoCam instrument took the images to create this color view on August 27, when the spacecraft was about 48,000 miles (78,000 kilometers) above the polar cloud tops. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

“It (the images) looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

“The largest planet in our solar system is truly unique. We have 36 more flybys to study just how unique it really is.”

A camera dubbed the “JunoCam” took the high-definition images. It is one of the nine instruments onboard the spacecraft.

Juno notably sent the first infrared close-ups of the planet’s north and south poles.

This infrared image gives an unprecedented view of the southern aurora of Jupiter, as captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on August 27, 2016. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)
This image provides a close-up view of Jupiter’s southern hemisphere, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on August 27, 2016. A second version of the image shows the same view with a latitude/longitude grid overlaid. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)
This montage of 10 JunoCam images shows Jupiter growing and shrinking in apparent size before and after NASA’s Juno spacecraft made its closest approach on August 27, 2016, at 12:50 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

“These first infrared views of Jupiter’s north and south poles are revealing warm and hot spots that have never been seen before,” said Alberto Adriani, of the Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali in Rome.

Adriani is one of the researchers who developed the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) that allowed scientists to acquire the images.

“While we knew that the first-ever infrared views of Jupiter’s south pole could reveal the planet’s southern aurora, we were amazed to see it for the first time,” he said.

Auroras are streamers of light in the sky caused by energy from the sun and electrically charged particles trapped in the magnetic field.

Another Juno instrument recorded sounds from Jupiter -- “ghostly-sounding transmissions emanating from the planet,” said NASA.

Scientists have known about Jupiter’s radio emissions since the 1950s, but had never analyzed them from such a close distance.

“Jupiter is talking to us in a way only gas-giant worlds can,” said Bill Kurth, co-investigator from the University of Iowa.

Juno’s main mission began in July and is scheduled to end in February 2018, when the probe will self-destruct by diving into the planet’s atmosphere.

The $1.1 billion project aims to peer beneath the clouds around Jupiter for the first time to learn more about the planet’s atmosphere.

Scientists want to know how much water the planet contains, because it can tell them a lot about when and how the planet formed.

Juno will also probe how the planet’s intense magnetic field is generated, and study the formation of auroras.