NASA's Juno spacecraft, which left Earth Aug. 5 to began its five-year, 1.7 billion-mile journey to Jupiter, will offer the public the opportunity to participate in the mission's science endeavors, said a researcher from the Planetary Science Institute.
The mission will also provide researchers with spectacular close-up color images of Jupiter, including the first detailed glimpses of the planet's poles, said Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, a senior research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and co-investigator on the Juno mission. She is also science lead for the spacecraft's camera, called the JunoCam.
"In addition to returning images of the poles of Jupiter from Juno's unprecedented perspective in its polar orbit, the camera will provide an opportunity for the public to be directly involved in a space mission," Hansen-Koharcheck said. "We are going to have the public help us decide which images we take, and when they will be taken."
The JunoCam operations team will rely on the international community of amateur astronomers to supply up-to-date images of Jupiter's ever-changing atmosphere to predict what atmospheric features will be in JunoCam's images when they are acquired, she said.
"The first step is to engage the amateur astronomy community to supply us with their data and send us their pictures," she said. "We will need to see what Jupiter is doing in 2016."
The public will be invited to weigh-in on which pictures should be taken. The images will be released to the public. "We will put our raw images out and ask them to process that data," she said.
The JunoCam camera, built by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, is a push-frame imager designed to acquire images while the spacecraft is rotating. Its 58-degree field of view is optimized for the view of the poles of Jupiter. Images will exceed Cassini resolution at about an hour from closest approach. At the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter the image resolution will be better than 5 kilometers.
"JunoCam is dedicated to public outreach and education," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "We're excited to get the first pictures of Jupiter's poles."
Hansen also co-leads the Juno Science Planning Working Group, charged with allocating scarce spacecraft resources such as data volume and energy, among all the instruments on the payload. The Science Planning Working Group creates timelines of instrument activities, and organizes observing campaigns.
The spacecraft is expected to arrive at Jupiter in July 2016. The Juno spacecraft -- the first to operate around an outer planet using solar power -- will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times, investigating the gas giant's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
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NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
The Planetary Science Institute (http://www.psi.edu) is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to solar system exploration. It is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, where it was founded in 1972. PSI scientists are involved in numerous NASA and international missions, the study of Mars and other planets, the Moon, asteroids, comets, interplanetary dust, impact physics, the origin of the solar system, extra-solar planet formation, dynamics, the rise of life, and other areas of research. They conduct fieldwork in North America, Australia and Africa. They also are actively involved in science education and public outreach through school programs, children's books, popular science books and art. PSI scientists are based in 15 states, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, Australia and Canada.