The Subaru Telescope Prepares Jupiter For Its Closeup

Images of Jupiter’s surface taken with the Subaru Telescope have helped researchers to plan a mission to take detailed images of the planet’s mysterious Great Red Spot.

AsianScientist (July 10, 2017) – Infrared images taken by the Subaru Telescope have revealed the weather in Jupiter’s atmosphere. This information was used to support the Juno spacecraft mission which took the first closeup images of the planet’s mysterious Great Red Spot.

The Juno spacecraft was launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in August 2011 to probe Jupiter’s interior and investigate the planet’s deep atmospheric structure. At the same time, Juno records details of the magnetosphere and its auroral interactions with the planet. The spacecraft has now made six passes of Jupiter’s atmosphere, with the most recent pass having occurred on May 19, 2017.

The Subaru telescope is a 8.2-meter telescope located at Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii. It is mounted with the COoled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrometer (COMICS) which allows it to obtain high resolution thermal images of Jupiter, including Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. COMICS can distinguish features close to a resolution of 1,000-km.

“A wide variety of filters installed in COMICS is advantageous in sensing Jupiter’s temperatures in its upper troposphere and in its stratosphere,” noted Subaru Telescope staff astronomer Takuya Fujiyoshi.

“The Subaru observations of Jupiter so far this year have been timed to coordinate with the greatest benefit to Juno mission,” said Dr. Glenn Orton, principal investigator and coordinator for Earth-based observations supporting the Juno project at Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology.

The Subaru Telescope was used as part of a coordinated campaign involving spacecraft orbiting the Earth and ground-based observatories such as the Gemini North Observatory. Collectively, the instruments deployed at these observation posts provided extensive coverage of wavelengths ranging from X-rays through radio frequencies.

“During our May 2017 observations that provided real-time support for Juno’s sixth near-pass orbit of Jupiter, we obtained images and spectra of the Great Red Spot and its surroundings,” Orton added.

“Our observations showed that the Great Red Spot, the largest known vortex in the solar system, had a cold and cloudy interior increasing toward its center, with a periphery that was warmer and clearer.”

Using the information from the Subaru telescope, researchers will be able to determine the three-dimensional structure of winds that are otherwise only tracked in two dimensions using cloud features in reflected sunlight.


Source: National Institutes of Natural Sciences; Photo: NAOJ/JPL.
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