A team led by Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom are presenting new images of Jupiter at the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Nottingham.
Obtained with the VISIR instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the new images are part of a focused effort to improve understanding of Jupiter’s atmosphere prior to the arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft in July this year.
The campaign has involved the use of several telescopes based in Hawaii and Chile, as well as contributions from amateur astronomers around the world. The maps do not just give snapshots of the planet, they also reveal how Jupiter’s atmosphere has been shifting and changing in the months prior to Juno’s arrival.
The Juno spacecraft was launched in 2011, and has travelled nearly 3000 million kilometres to reach the Jovian system. Spacecraft can collect data free from the limitations affecting telescopes on Earth so with that in mind, it might seem surprising that this ground-based campaign was considered so important.
Leigh Fletcher describes the significance of this research in preparing for Juno’s arrival: “These maps will help set the scene for what Juno will witness in the coming months. Observations at different wavelengths across the infrared spectrum allow us to piece together a three-dimensional picture of how energy and material are transported upwards through the atmosphere.”
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