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Nasa unveils photos of Jupiter’s poles

NASA published the first-ever images of Jupiter’s north pole and its southern aurora, taken during the Juno spacecraft’s first orbital flyby

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NASA published the first-ever images of Jupiter’s north pole and its southern aurora, taken during the Juno spacecraft’s first orbital flyby of the gaseous giant.

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

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

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

In this image obtained from NASA, Juno was about 48,000 miles (78,000 kilometers) above Jupiter's polar cloud tops when it captured this view, showing storms and weather unlike anywhere else in the solar system. 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.  HO / NASA / AFP
In this image obtained from NASA, Juno was about 48,000 miles (78,000 kilometers) above Jupiter's polar cloud tops when it captured this view, showing storms and weather unlike anywhere else in the solar system. 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. HO / NASA / AFP

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.

“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.

This image obtained from NASA provides a close-up view of Jupiter's southern hemisphere, as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft on August 27, 2016. The JunoCam instrument captured this image with its red spectral filter when the spacecraft was about 23,600 miles (38,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops.  HO / NASA / AFP
This image obtained from NASA provides a close-up view of Jupiter's southern hemisphere, as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft on August 27, 2016. The JunoCam instrument captured this image with its red spectral filter when the spacecraft was about 23,600 miles (38,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops. HO / NASA / AFP

“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.

This image from NASA's Juno spacecraft provides a never-before-seen perspective on Jupiter's south pole. The JunoCam instrument acquired the view on August 27, 2016, when the spacecraft was about 58,700 miles (94,500 kilometers) above the polar region. At this point, the spacecraft was about an hour past its closest approach, and fine detail in the south polar region is clearly resolved.  HO / NASA / AFP
This image from NASA's Juno spacecraft provides a never-before-seen perspective on Jupiter's south pole. The JunoCam instrument acquired the view on August 27, 2016, when the spacecraft was about 58,700 miles (94,500 kilometers) above the polar region. At this point, the spacecraft was about an hour past its closest approach, and fine detail in the south polar region is clearly resolved. HO / NASA / AFP

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.