While Juno will arrive at Jupiter on July 4th of this year, and enter its first orbit on July 5th, Hi-Res photos will not be made available to the public until sometime in August. While for many that will be a long wait, the images once they make it to Earth are certain to please professional and amateur astronomers alike.
Photography is not high on Juno’s mission list (unfortunately?)
While Juno and JunoCam are certainly poised to deliver the best photos of the largest planet in our solar system you won’t be seeing them anytime soon and while JunoCam was surely deemed necessary it’s not the reason for the mission that will arrive at the planet while hundreds of millions are celebrating the United States’ independence from England.
But for those who are anxious for hi-resolution shots of the planet’s surface you’ve got a considerably longer wait in store for you. It will be late August before they’re in and I’m guessing that more people are considerably more interested in photos of the iPhone 7 than they are about this enormous and beautiful planet.
The Juno mission at its core is a science mission and a camera was an afterthought but clearly a necessary addition if only for public outreach and public relations. People, are quite simply, excited about space right now with Kepler finding exoplanets each month, New Horizons headed towards the Kuiper Belt following its mission to Pluto and other ongoing missions including the spectacular photos that Hubble continues to get along with other discoveries and exploration.
The JunoCam is really quite small and NASA sourced it from Malin Space Science Systems while assigning Candy Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute control and lead on JunoCam. JunoCam is largely built off the boxes that provided the Mars Curiosity’s cameras but required additional shielding to protect it from the radiation it will be inundated with as Juno orbits the planet.
Juno is expected to rotate twice per minute as it orbits Jupiter and this allows for a side mounting that will give JunoCam the chance to capture the whole planet with its 58 degree field of view as it approaches the Jovian poles as well as a half and hour after the closest approach. It’s expected that the infrared filter will allow the camera to see though the methane and get great shots of Jupiter’s cloud features when in orbit.
Why the wait til’ August?
Let’s be clear, this is first and foremost a science mission there could be delays in receiving imagery from JunoCam but presently there is an existing schedule and a plan for the orbiter’s camera to take some shots, make some movies, etc.
JunoCam will be taking hundreds of sequential shots during early orbits that NASA plans to make into three movies titled: “Approach Movie”, the “Marble Movie”, and the “One-Orbit Movie.”
While the photos are highly anticipated they will be limited as the 14-day orbits expected from Juno are highly elliptical and at times the Juno will be as far as one million kilometers from the planet the majority of the time and JunoCam will do most of its work around perijove.
In fact, around each perijove there are really only 2 hours that allow for high-res photos in which Jupiter will appear larger than the camera’s 58-degree field of view, the rest of the photos will be quite small.
Additionally, we’re talking about imagery that will take hours if not days from when it’s taken to reach us here on Earth, but hi-res photos will be posted to the JunoCam website automatically in the beginning of November.