Glorious, glowing Jupiter awaits Juno’s arrival
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 27 June 2016
Images and video can be downloaded in a range of resolutions and formats from the ESO website: https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1623/
Stunning new images and the highest-resolution maps to date of Jupiter at thermal infrared wavelengths give a glowing view of Juno’s target, a week ahead of the NASA mission’s arrival at the giant planet. The maps reveal the present-day temperatures, composition and cloud coverage within Jupiter’s dynamic atmosphere, and show how giant storms, vortices and wave patterns shape the appearance of the giant planet. The observations will be presented on Monday 27 June at the National Astronomy Meeting in Nottingham by Dr Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester.
The high-resolution maps and images were created from observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, using a newly-upgraded thermal imager called VISIR. The observations were taken between February and June 2016 to characterise Jupiter’s atmosphere ahead of Juno’s arrival.
“We used a technique called ‘lucky imaging’, whereby individual sharp frames are extracted from short movies of Jupiter to ‘freeze’ the turbulent motions of our own atmosphere, to create a stunning new image of Jupiter’s cloud layers,” explained Dr Fletcher. “At this wavelength, Jupiter’s clouds appear in silhouette against the deep internal glows of the planet. Images of this quality will provide the global context for Juno’s close-up views of the planet at the same wavelength.”
Dr Fletcher and his team have also used the TEXES spectrograph on NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Hawaii regularly to map Jupiter’s changing appearance. The team made observations at many different wavelengths, optimised for different features and cloud layers in Jupiter’s atmosphere, to create the first global spectral maps of Jupiter taken from Earth.
“These maps will help set the scene for what Juno will witness in the coming months. We have seen new weather phenomena that have been active on Jupiter throughout 2016.
These include a widening of one of the brown belts just north of the equator, which has spawned wave patterns throughout the northern hemisphere, both in the cloud layers and high above in the planet’s stratosphere,” said Dr Fletcher from the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. “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.”
Both sets of observations were made as part of a campaign using several telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, as well as contributions from amateur astronomers around the world, to understand Jupiter’s climate ahead of Juno’s arrival. The ground-based campaign in support of Juno is led by Dr Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Once in orbit around Jupiter, Juno will skim just 5000 km above Jupiter’s clouds once a fortnight – too close to provide global coverage in a single image. The Earth-based observations supplement the suite of advanced instrumentation on the Juno spacecraft, filling in the gaps in Juno’s spectral coverage and providing the wider global and temporal context to Juno’s close-in observations.
“The combined efforts of an international team of amateur and professional astronomers have provided us with an incredibly rich dataset over the past eight months,” said Dr Orton. “Together with the new results from Juno, this dataset will allow researchers to characterise Jupiter’s global thermal structure, cloud cover and distribution of gaseous species. We can then hope to answer questions like what drives Jupiter’s atmospheric changes, and how the weather we see is connected to processes hidden deep within the planet.”
Dr Leigh Fletcher
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Leicester
Dr Fletcher will be participating in a Google Hangout on Air on Monday 27th June:
Dr Robert Massey
Deputy Executive Director
Royal Astronomical Society
Ms Anita Heward
Royal Astronomical Society
NAM 2016 press office (from Monday 27 June to Friday 1 July)
An ISDN line and a Globelynx fixed camera are available for radio and TV interviews. To request these, please contact Robert or Anita.
Mr Peter Thorley
University of Leicester
Mr Richard Hook
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Images and video can be downloaded in a range of resolutions and formats from the ESO website:
Jupiter imaged using the VISIR instrument on the VLT
In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft in July 2016, astronomers used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter using the VISIR instrument. They are part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet to inform the work to be undertaken by Juno over the following months, helping astronomers to better understand the gas giant.
This false-colour image was created by selecting and combining the best images obtained from many short VISIR exposures at a wavelength of 5 micrometres. Credit: ESO/L. Fletcher
Two faces of Jupiter
False colour images generated from VLT observations in February and March 2016, showing two different faces of Jupiter. The bluer areas are cold and cloud-free, the orangey areas are warm and cloudy, more colourless bright regions are warm and cloud-free, and dark regions are cold and cloudy (such as the Great Red Spot and the prominent ovals). The wave pattern over the North Equatorial Band shows up in orange.
This view was created by combining VLT/VISIR infrared images from February 2016 (left) and March 2016 (right). The orange images were obtained at 10.7 micrometres wavelength and highlight the different temperatures and presence of ammonia. The blue images at 8.6 micrometres highlight variations in cloud opacity. Credit: ESO/L.N. Fletcher
Comparison of VISIR and visible light views of Jupiter
This view compares a lucky imaging view of Jupiter from VISIR (left) at infrared wavelengths with a very sharp amateur image in visible light from about the same time (right). Credit: ESO/L.N. Fletcher/Damian Peach
Mapping Jupiter’s changing appearance
These maps were created by slicing Jupiter's atmosphere using spectroscopy from the IRTF/TEXES instrument, and include a comparison to a visible light map from amateur observers. The 8 micrometre wavelength senses stratospheric temperatures near 1 mbar, showing wave activity in the northern hemisphere and heating associated with Jupiter’s powerful auroras. The 8.6 and 10.4 micrometre wavelengths sense tropospheric temperatures, ammonia humidity and cloud coverage. Adapted from Fletcher et al. (2016). Credit: NASA/Infrared Telescope Facility/M. Vedovato/JUPOS Team/Fletcher et al.
Jupiter imaged using the VISIR instrument on the VLT
In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft in July 2016, astronomers used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter using the VISIR instrument. They were part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet to inform the work to be undertaken by Juno over the following months, helping astronomers to better understand the gas giant.
This video was created from many short VISIR exposures at a wavelength of 5 micrometres. The telescope was moved slightly between exposures and the changing turbulence of the Earth’s atmosphere can be seen. Credit: ESO/L. Fletcher
- Coordinated observing campaign details available at www.missionjuno.swri.edu.
- Fletcher et al., (2016), Mid-Infrared Mapping of Jupiter's Temperatures, Aerosol Opacity and Chemical Distributions with IRTF/TEXES, Icarus, accepted (doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2016.06.008).
JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Dr. Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
More information about the Juno mission is available at:
Notes for editors
The RAS National Astronomy Meeting 2016 (NAM 2016, http://nam2016.org) takes place this year at the University of Nottingham from 27 June to 1 July. NAM 2016 brings together more than 550 space scientists and astronomers to discuss the latest research in their respective fields. The conference is principally sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society and the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Follow the conference on Twitter via @rasnam2016
The University of Nottingham (http://nottingham.ac.uk/) has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.
Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC, http://www.stfc.ac.uk) is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar. STFC's Astronomy and Space Science programme provides support for a wide range of facilities, research groups and individuals in order to investigate some of the highest priority questions in astrophysics, cosmology and solar system science. STFC's astronomy and space science programme is delivered through grant funding for research activities, and also through support of technical activities at STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Centre and RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. STFC also supports UK astronomy through the international European Southern Observatory. Follow STFC on Twitter via @stfc_matters
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS, http://www.ras.org.uk), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.
The RAS accepts papers for its journals based on the principle of peer review, in which fellow experts on the editorial boards accept the paper as worth considering. The Society issues press releases based on a similar principle, but the organisations and scientists concerned have overall responsibility for their content.
Follow the RAS on Twitter via @royalastrosoc
ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.
The University of Leicester is led by discovery and innovation – an international centre for excellence renowned for research, teaching and broadening access to higher education. The University of Leicester is ranked among the top one per cent of universities in the world by the THE World University Rankings and also among the top 100 leading international universities in the world. It is among the top 25 universities in the Times Higher Education REF Research Power rankings with 75% of research adjudged to be internationally excellent with wide-ranging impacts on society, health, culture, and the environment.
Find out more: https://le.ac.uk/about-us