If you see a glorious new view of Jupiter or its fascinating moons, you can probably thank NASA's Juno spacecraft for the imagery. Juno's JunoCam has been delivering stunning looks at the swirling gas giant planet since its arrival there in 2016. But JunoCam now has a mysterious problem.
In a statement on Friday, NASA said JunoCam didn't acquire all the images it had planned to during a flyby of Jupiter on Jan. 22. "Data received from the spacecraft indicates that the camera experienced an issue similar to one that occurred on its previous close pass of the gas giant last month, when the team saw an anomalous temperature rise after the camera was powered on in preparation for the flyby," NASA said.
The first four images out of 90 captured on that earlier flyby were degraded, but subsequent images were fine. The issue worsened on the most recent flyby, persisting for 23 hours and leaving 214 images unusable. As it had before, the camera recovered and eventually captured 44 usable images.
The Juno team is now in analysis mode. "The mission team is evaluating JunoCam engineering data acquired during the two recent flybys -- the 47th and 48th of the mission -- and is investigating the root cause of the anomaly and mitigation strategies," NASA said.
JunoCam was included in the mission for public engagement purposes. NASA makes the raw images available to anyone for processing. The camera has shown us the intricacies of Jupiter's stormy cloud formations and captured glorious close-ups of some of Jupiter's many moons.
Juno's next pass of Jupiter is scheduled for March 1. NASA has a good track record of troubleshooting glitches on its distant space missions. Here's hoping JunoCam recovers fully and continues to wow space fans with its unique perspective on Jupiter.