NASA released 1,300 raw unprocessed photos of Jupiter and its four largest moons taken by the space probe Juno this week, and the agency is excited for space enthusiasts to process the images for themselves.
The amazing pictures of Jupiter and its moons Callisto, Io, Europa, and Ganymede were taken over a 17-day period beginning three weeks before the space probe entered orbit above the gas giant. “One red/green/blue image was taken every 15 minutes,” according to NASA’s website.
NASA processed the images into a flip-book type movie showcasing Juno’s approach to Jupiter in the first ever video of its kind, Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator, told The Atlantic.
“[This is] the first time humanity’s been able to see one celestial object go around another.”
The space probe’s JunoCam was able to capture Jupiter’s moon Callisto making one full orbit around the gas giant while the planet’s other large moons, Io, Europa, and Ganymede, made multiple orbits.
The photos and approach video are the culmination of a story that began almost 500 years ago in 1610 when the Italian astronomer Galileo looked up into the night sky and noticed three bright stars near the planet Jupiter. Galileo tracked Jupiter through the skies for the next several weeks and observed the three stars moving along with the giant planet.
He eventually decided there were four moons circling the large celestial body, and fast forward to today, we know Jupiter has hundreds of moons, as Bolton told The Atlantic.
“And now, 500 years later almost, we’re able to see the motion ourselves.”
The pictures don’t look like much, but they mark an incredible technological achievement accomplished by mankind for the first time in history. Better pictures will come later when the Juno probe fires up its high-resolution camera in the coming weeks and months ahead with the first one expected August 27 when the spacecraft makes its next closest pass over the gas giant.
For now, mankind will have to satisfy itself with the first 1,300 pictures to travel all the way from Jupiter; they’re available for download from NASA’s Juno mission website.
“NASA/JPL is excited to share the unprocessed images that comprise the approach movie acquired by JunoCam as the Juno spacecraft approached Jupiter. We hope that you will enjoy creating your own product.”
At least one group has already used the pictures as way to promote their belief in the existence of space aliens. In a viral video viewed more than 47,000 times, the UFO believer group Section 51 claims to have footage of an alien craft in orbit above the gas giant, according to an accompanying article.
“Pictures captured by JUNO revealed a mysterious UFO hovering over the giant red spot during few minutes before leaving in deep space.”
Their UFO claim is probably false, however, as a number of UFO hoax busters have noted the featured film was more probably created using CGI animation, as a user identified simply as Me commented on Section 51’s website.
“Juno hasn’t gotten close enough for high res yet. Fake.”
The Juno probe will spend the next year and a half navigating Jupiter’s dangerous radiation belts before crashing into the gas giant with its crew of three tiny one-inch tall Lego figures still onboard
Meanwhile, the massive armored spacecraft, shielded to survive Jupiter’s intense radiation, will study the gas giant’s core and the planet’s massive Great Red Spot. By studying the first planet in our system to form, NASA scientists hope to find out more about Earth’s early history.
It took five years and 500 million miles, but now the Juno Jupiter probe is ready to make history and help rewrite astronomy textbooks.
[Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/AP Images]