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What to expect from JunoCam at Jupiter

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

09-06-2016 9:37 CDT

Topics: mission status, explaining image processing, Juno, Jupiter

Juno will go in to orbit at Jupiter on July 5 (July 4 in North and South American time zones), and it's carrying a camera that's going to take really awesome photos of Jupiter. But you're going to have to be patient. We won't be able to see spectacular views of Jupiter's belts and zones from Jupiter orbit until the very end of August, and it'll be November before we'll see automated release of high-resolution raw images. Want to know what to expect from JunoCam, when, and where to find it? This post is for you.

A brief JunoCam primer: The Juno spacecraft did not need a camera to accomplish its science goals. But everyone recognized that it would be a crime to send a spacecraft to Jupiter and not include a camera. Thus NASA procured JunoCam from Malin Space Science Systems for public outreach purposes. The head of the JunoCam team is Candy Hansen, of the Planetary Science Institute. JunoCam is a very small instrument; its electronics are based on the small boxes developed for Curiosity's science cameras. Its camera head looks very similar to Curiosity's MARDI, but JunoCam is much heavier because it has additional shielding to protect it from Jupiter's radiation environment. Its wide (58-degree) field of view is selected to allow it to take in all of Jupiter's globe when Juno is flying close over the Jovian poles at about an hour before and an hour after its closest approach on every science orbit. It's mounted to the side of Juno, which continuously spins at 2 rotations per minute. It can take images in RGB color or through an infrared filter sensitive to the presence of methane, which will highlight Jupiter cloud features. To take images, JunoCam uses the rotation of the spacecraft to sweep its view along, building up image swaths. To get super technical, it's a pushframe camera that uses time-delay integration to build up adequate signal despite the low light levels and rapidly rotating spacecraft. For the gory details, you can read this open-access paper describing it.

Location of JunoCam on Juno

NASA / JPL / Eyes on the Solar System / Emily Lakdawalla

Location of JunoCam on Juno
Junocam is located on one side of the spacecraft. As Juno spins, Junocam can see 360 degrees around.

Key JunoCam Jupiter imaging points:

  • Everything described in this post is planned imaging. Plans could change due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances. 
  • During approach and early orbits, JunoCam will take hundreds of sequential image frames that can be assembled into three different movies: the "Approach Movie", the "Marble Movie", and the "One-Orbit Movie." More details on these movies below. During the science mission (which begins on November 9), Juno will acquire data less frequently: 5 to 20 images on each 14-day orbit, mostly around perijove.
  • JunoCam's wide field of view means that most of the time, its photos of Jupiter will be quite small. It can achieve higher resolution than most amateur astrophotos only when it is within roughly a million kilometers of the planet. (As a general rule of thumb, divide 210 by the range to Jupiter in millions of kilometers and you'll get Jupiter's apparent diameter to JunoCam, in pixels.)
  • No high-resolution Jupiter photos will be taken during Jupiter orbit insertion on July 5. JunoCam and all the science instruments will be turned off from 5 days before Jupiter arrival until 2 days after Jupiter arrival. Jupiter arrival is also called Perijove 0.
  • Juno's orbit is highly elliptical, so it spends almost all of its time much farther than a million kilometers from Jupiter. During the science mission, it will only get moderately high-resolution photos of Jupiter within a two-day period around each perijove.
  • Truly detailed photos -- ones in which Jupiter appears bigger than the full JunoCam field of view, and in which Juno can see more detail than Cassini did during its one Jupiter flyby -- are only possible within a two-hour period around each perijove.
  • The next time after Perijove 0 that Juno will be within a million kilometers of Jupiter is on August 27, beginning about 12 hours before Perijove 1. All the science instruments will operate through Perijove 1. August 27 should be a fantastic day for JunoCam!
  • JunoCam photos received on Earth will not be automatically posted to the mission website until some time after Perijove 1 and possibly as late as Perijove 3. That is to say, automated raw image release is planned to begin some time in September or October. Other images will be released before that, but not all of them, and after some delay. Once automated image release does begin, all of the images that Juno has taken will be made available to the public.
  • Because Juno has to do a large rocket maneuver on Perijove 2 (October 20), JunoCam will be turned off for the 48 hours around Perijove 2, and therefore JunoCam will take no high-resolution images from JunoCam between its departure from Perijove 1 and its approach to Perijove 3.
  • So the first time we will see high-resolution images automatically released to the JunoCam website will be after Perijove 3, which happens on November 2.
  • Keep in mind that, like all deep-space missions, Juno doesn't transmit all its data in real time. Image data will trickle to Earth hours to days after it's acquired.
  • When the Juno mission does begin automated release of raw images, you will be able to find them here.
  • After images from Perijove 3 become available (after November 2), the public can start participating in online voting to select targets for JunoCam imaging for Perijove 4 (which will happen on November 16). Because it's a public outreach instrument, the JunoCam team has committed to allowing the public to choose where most of its highest-resolution Jupiter images will be targeted.
  • You can already participate in online discussion about features visible on Jupiter on the JunoCam website, thanks to the wonderful efforts of amateur astrophotographers taking photos of Jupiter for the Juno mission.

Here's a photo that JunoCam took during the Earth flyby on October 9, 2013, to whet your appetite for the quality of images that we will eventually get from JunoCam, come August.

Earth from Junocam (EFB12)

NASA / JPL / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt

Earth from Junocam (EFB12)
As it flew past Earth, Juno's JunoCam got its first opportunity to image a colorful planet. In this photo, taken at 12:12 on October 9, 2013, the Sun glints from the ocean off the east coast of South America.

Here's a diagram of Juno's Jupiter trajectory. Following are a few more detailed notes on what the JunoCam team has planned.

Juno's orbital mission

NASA / JPL / SwRI

Juno's orbital mission
Juno enters orbit on July 5, 2016 at around 02:30 UTC. Its first two orbits are long ones lasting 53.5 days each (green). On its second periapsis after orbit insertion, Juno will shrink its orbit to one that will take only two weeks (blue). Over time, the orbit will shrink, the apoapsis will shift toward the night side of Jupiter, and the orbit will tilt so that the apoapsis is farther and farther to the south. The Juno mission will end with an impact into Jupiter on perijove number 37 on February 21, 2018.

Approach Movie (acquisition dates: June 12-29, 2016)

As I write this, Juno is now in the Jupiter Approach phase of its mission. As Juno closes from 16 million kilometers away from Jupiter on June 12 to 5 million kilometers away from Jupiter on June 29, JunoCam will capture color photos covering one entire spacecraft rotation at a rate of 2 to 4 times per hour. During this time, Jupiter will grow from about 13 to about 40 pixels in diameter, but Juno will be seeing it at half-full phase. The wide field of view will encompass the orbits of all of Jupiter's moons out to Callisto, so the main attraction of this movie will be the fun of watching Jupiter's large moons orbiting the planet. The movie is planned to cover 17 days, which one complete Callisto orbit (2.4 Ganymede orbits, 4.8 Europa orbits, and 9.6 Io orbits).

This is a lot of data; even one day's worth of data is more than JunoCam can store in its buffer. All the data will have to be relayed to Earth more than once a day in order to keep making room for new images. If there are any interruptions in data receipt (if, for instance, there is bad weather or an equipment failure at a Deep Space Network station), some frames from the movie may be lost and won't be able to be retransmitted. The Juno team plans to wait for the complete downlink of all of the Approach Movie frames before releasing the images, so don't bother to start looking for it until the day of orbit insertion.

Marble Movie (acquisition dates: July 11-August 26 and August 28-September 23 and September 30-October 18)

Each of Juno's first two elliptical loops around the planet will take 53.5 days to complete. For most of that time, JunoCam will be acquiring about 5 full-color images per hour, watching Jupiter spin from a distance. The planet will appear less than 50 pixels across for the great majority of that time. The movie will run from July 11 to October 18 with two interruptions. The first interruption happens around August 27, during Perijove 1. (JunoCam will be acquiring images then, but not ones timed to continue the movie.) The second interruption happens from September 23 to 30, when Jupiter will be passing through solar conjunction. When spacecraft pass through solar conjunction, controllers on Earth can't reliably communicate with them, so spacecraft are usually put into a lower-activity state to minimize the risk that they'll need intervention from Earth during that period. So JunoCam won't acquire data during conjunction. That period happens to coincide with Juno's apojove on September 23, so Jupiter would appear at its smallest then, anyway. The Marble Movie will end shortly before Perijove 2 (which is on October 19). The Marble Movie will provide the JunoCam team with up-to-date maps of Jupiter. During conjunction, Jupiter is too close to the Sun in the sky for Earth-based astronomers to photograph it, so JunoCam's images will be the only information we can get on Jupiter's atmospheric dynamics throughout this period

Here is how Jupiter's apparent size will vary throughout the Marble Movie. These numbers are for the whole Jupiter disk, but Jupiter will only appear half-full to Juno.

  • July 11: 47 pixels
  • July 18: 31 pixels
  • July 25: 27 pixels
  • August 1: 26 pixels
  • August 8: 27 pixels
  • August 15: 32 pixels
  • August 22: 48 pixels
  • August 26: >100 pixels
  • August 28:
  • September 4: 41 pixels
  • September 11: 30 pixels
  • September 18: 27 pixels
  • September 25: 26 pixels (conjunction overlaps with apojove)
  • October 2: 28 pixels
  • October 9: 34 pixels
  • October 16: 61 pixels

Perijove 1 (August 26-28)

Because all the science instruments must be turned off for Perijove 0, Perijove 1 will be the first opportunity that they have to operate close to Jupiter. The scientists won't find out how well their instruments work up close to Jupiter until Perijove 1, so this is a really important day for the mission. JunoCam will be commanded to take a wide variety of different types of observations in order to test out its capabilities and different operational modes. It will get polar images of Jupiter with the globe just filling the frame and then do lots of closer imaging of Jupiter, which should show cool cloud features. The orbital path takes Juno close to the terminator -- the boundary between day and night on Jupiter -- so it's possible that tall clouds that poke up vertically might cast shadows that JunoCam could see. JunoCam will try to image the rings, and will also attempt to photograph Ganymede from a distance near 500,000 kilometers. Perijove 1 will be the first time that JunoCam will be able to acquire images more detailed than we can get from Earth.

One-Orbit Movie (October 21-November 2, including Perijove 3)

On Perijove 2 (October 19), Juno will conduct a large Period Reduction Maneuver, a rocket burn that will shorten its elliptical path around Jupiter to one that takes only 14 days to complete. A few days after this maneuver, there will be one final, much smaller rocket burn to clean up any mismatch between Juno's actual and desired science orbits. Once that final burn is safely out of the way, JunoCam will be clear to turn on and take regular photos of Jupiter for its third and final movie. It will acquire frames for this movie through Apojove 2 and Perijove 3, so the "One-Orbit Movie" will be the first movie that will include regular frames during Juno's closest approach to Jupiter. You might also hear the JunoCam team referring to this as the "Zoom Movie," because JunoCam will appear to zoom all the way in to Jupiter, with the planet more than filling the field of view. The JunoCam team may also perform a few more experiments with different kinds of imaging near close approach, the way they did on Perijove 1, but these will be fit among movie frames.

Public-directed targeted imaging (November 3, 2016 until the radiation death of JunoCam or the end of the last science orbit, February 14, 2018)

The images that Juno captures during Perijove 3, combined with images taken by amateur astrophotographers from Earth, will be combined to make a map of Jupiter. Anybody who registers on the JunoCam website can select, discuss, and vote for which spots on this map of Jupiter they would like JunoCam to take images of during the next perijove.  Voting for Perijove 4 targets will open on Friday, November 4, and close on Wednesday, November 9. From then on, public voting for JunoCam targets will open every other Friday and close every other Wednesday. Based on the ranking of targets, engineers at Malin Space Science Systems will generate commands for JunoCam to take images covering those targets. (In some cases, two or more targets that are very close to each other might be able to be covered by a single JunoCam image.) Once those commands are written, they are run through a program that estimates the data volume of the resulting images. The final commands will include everything JunoCam can acquire within whatever its data volume limit is for each perijove. The actual number of images that JunoCam will get on each perijove pass depends on their compression ratio -- the more detail there is in an image, the less it can be compressed. There will probably be between 5 and 20 targeted JunoCam images per perijove pass.

Since it's not a science instrument, JunoCam wasn't required to be heavily shielded enough to guarantee its survival throughout the prime science mission. It is shielded, but the Jupiter radiation environment is a nasty one, and JunoCam will suffer radiation damage over time. It was designed to withstand 8 Jupiter orbits, which roughly coincides with the end of 2016. Still, it's more likely to be a slow death (a steady increase in noise) than a sudden failure. We'll probably see degradation of the quality of JunoCam images in 2017, but hopefully the camera will hold up well enough to continue to operate for many more science orbits and voting rounds before Jupiter finally kills the camera. If we're lucky, JunoCam will survive until February 21, 2018, when Juno will plunge into Jupiter, on Perijove 37.

Here's a table of major events to look forward to on the Juno mission.

DateEventNote
13 Jun 2016 Begin JunoCam Approach Movie Color images every ~22.5 minutes. Will show moons moving around Jupiter.
30 Jun 2016 Instruments off for JOI  
30 Jun 2016 End JunoCam Approach Movie  
5 Jul 2016 Perijove 0 Jupiter Orbit Insertion at 2:30UT (19:30 July 4 PT). No science. 53.5-day orbit.
7 Jul 2016 Instruments on after JOI  
9 Jul 2016 Begin JunoCam Marble Movie These images will be used for planning first public-voted image targeting at PJ4
26 Jul 2016 Conjunction -2 months Photography of Jupiter from Earth very poor and getting worse
31 Jul 2016 Apojove 0 Begin orbit 1 (entire 53.5-day orbit with no maneuvers)
26 Aug 2016 End JunoCam Marble Movie  
26 Aug 2016 Conjunction -1 month Photography of Jupiter from Earth not possible
26 Aug 2016 JunoCam images Ganymede  
27 Aug 2016 Perijove 1 No maneuvers. Test science instruments. 53.5-day orbit.
22 Sep 2016 Apojove 1 Begin orbit 2 (long inbound leg and short outbound leg)
23 Sep 2016 Conjunction begins Command moratorium. S/C
26 Sep 2016 Jupiter conjunction  
30 Sep 2016 Conjunction ends Command moratorium ends.
19 Oct 2016 Perijove 2 Period Reduction Maneuver. No science. Orbit to 2-week period.
21 Oct 2016 Begin JunoCam One-Orbit Movie  
26 Oct 2016 Conjunction +1 month Photography of Jupiter from Earth begins to be possible again
26 Oct 2016 Apojove 2 Begin orbit 3
1 Nov 2016 End JunoCam One-Orbit Movie  
2 Nov 2016 Perijove 3  
4 Nov 2016 Public voting begins First opportunity for public to vote on JunoCam targets.
9 Nov 2016 Apojove 3 Begin orbit 4. Science mission begins.
16 Nov 2016 Perijove 4  
23 Nov 2016 Apojove 4 Begin orbit 5
26 Nov 2016 Conjunction +2 months Amateur photography of Jupiter begins to be good enough for image targeting
30 Nov 2016 Perijove 5  
7 Dec 2016 Apojove 5 Begin orbit 6
14 Dec 2016 Perijove 6  
21 Dec 2016 Apojove 6 Begin orbit 7
28 Dec 2016 Perijove 7  
4 Jan 2017 Apojove 7 Begin orbit 8
11 Jan 2017 Perijove 8  
18 Jan 2017 Apojove 8 Begin orbit 9
18 Jan 2017 JunoCam lifetime Designed lifetime. Hopefully it will last longer.
25 Jan 2017 Perijove 9  
1 Feb 2017 Apojove 9 Begin orbit 10
8 Feb 2017 Perijove 10  
15 Feb 2017 Apojove 10 Begin orbit 11
22 Feb 2017 Perijove 11  
1 Mar 2017 Apojove 11 Begin orbit 12
8 Mar 2017 Perijove 12  
15 Mar 2017 Apojove 12 Begin orbit 13
22 Mar 2017 Perijove 13  
29 Mar 2017 Apojove 13 Begin orbit 14
5 Apr 2017 Perijove 14  
12 Apr 2017 Apojove 14 Begin orbit 15
19 Apr 2017 Perijove 15  
26 Apr 2017 Apojove 15 Begin orbit 16
3 May 2017 Perijove 16  
10 May 2017 Apojove 16 Begin orbit 17
17 May 2017 Perijove 17  
24 May 2017 Apojove 17 Begin orbit 18
31 May 2017 Perijove 18  
7 Jun 2017 Apojove 18 Begin orbit 19
14 Jun 2017 Perijove 19  
21 Jun 2017 Apojove 19 Begin orbit 20
28 Jun 2017 Perijove 20  
5 Jul 2017 Apojove 20 Begin orbit 21
12 Jul 2017 Perijove 21  
19 Jul 2017 Apojove 21 Begin orbit 22
26 Jul 2017 Perijove 22  
2 Aug 2017 Apojove 22 Begin orbit 23
9 Aug 2017 Perijove 23  
16 Aug 2017 Apojove 23 Begin orbit 24
23 Aug 2017 Perijove 24  
30 Aug 2017 Apojove 24 Begin orbit 25
6 Sep 2017 Perijove 25  
13 Sep 2017 Apojove 25 Begin orbit 26
20 Sep 2017 Perijove 26  
27 Sep 2017 Apojove 26 Begin orbit 27
4 Oct 2017 Perijove 27  
11 Oct 2017 Apojove 27 Begin orbit 28
18 Oct 2017 Perijove 28  
25 Oct 2017 Apojove 28 Begin orbit 29
1 Nov 2017 Perijove 29  
8 Nov 2017 Apojove 29 Begin orbit 30
15 Nov 2017 Perijove 30  
22 Nov 2017 Apojove 30 Begin orbit 31
29 Nov 2017 Perijove 31  
6 Dec 2017 Apojove 31 Begin orbit 32
13 Dec 2017 Perijove 32  
20 Dec 2017 Apojove 32 Begin orbit 33
27 Dec 2017 Perijove 33  
3 Jan 2018 Apojove 33 Begin orbit 34
10 Jan 2018 Perijove 34  
17 Jan 2018 Apojove 34 Begin orbit 35
24 Jan 2018 Perijove 35  
31 Jan 2018 Apojove 35 Begin orbit 36
7 Feb 2018 Perijove 36  
14 Feb 2018 Apojove 36 Begin orbit 37; end nominal mission
21 Feb 2018 Perijove 37 Jupiter impact

Save

 
See other posts from June 2016

 

Or read more blog entries about: mission status, explaining image processing, Juno, Jupiter

Comments:

Earl Green: 06/09/2016 11:26 CDT

Thank you so much for this info! While I realize Juno's imaging is pretty far down the priority list of what this particular mission is meant to accomplish...Jupiter is kind of like Hawaii*. You can't go there and NOT take pictures. Hopefully JunoCam survives well into the mission. I grew up with the Voyager 1 Jupiter "movie", so the thought that they're actually planning further such delights is exciting.

messy: 06/10/2016 08:30 CDT

any chance for photos of any of the moons? at Apajove?

Emily Lakdawalla: 06/10/2016 10:48 CDT

Messy: Yes, you'll see on perijove 1 they'll be trying for Ganymede. The polar orbit and very wide angle view of the camera mean that moon images will be very low-resolution. The flip side of that is that moon images take very little data volume (because low res and mostly contain black space). So they'll probably snap a couple of moon pictures per orbit, on average, but their quality won't be a lot better than what you can get from Earth.

Jeremy: 06/10/2016 11:25 CDT

Are there any published details regarding the Jupiter impact phase? I'm curious as to what, if any, measurements will be done during the decent.

Svetoslav: 06/11/2016 01:25 CDT

So we have a camera touted as a "public outreach instrument", yet they're not planning to release data until many days later. So why are they advertising it, when the outreach policy looks so like early Rosetta?

Gerald: 06/11/2016 05:10 CDT

Svetolav: In my understanding, there are at least two reasons for the delayed release of the images: -1- Images are downlinked from Juno in a binary stream of data. On Earth, the data stream needs to be split into instrument streams. The JunoCam binary data then need to be converted into a raw image. Before data are downlinked, they are stored in Juno's memory until there is time available to downlink the data. Hence there are technical reasons for the delay. - 2 - Before good images can be taken, some testing is necessary. Those test images usually aren't very interesting for the public. They are mostly black, show some stars, hot pixels, and in sometimes stray light. Here an example http://imgur.com/bcdvwz6 Juno and the Juno team need some time to get used to the Jupiter environment, and to see, whether the processing pipeline works well enough to be ready for public release. You can anticipate many things, but there remain unknowns and according adjustments.

harukichou: 06/11/2016 09:52 CDT

" The Juno spacecraft did not need a camera to accomplish its science goals." So, what are the science goals for which a camera is not needed? Seems to me that for any such mission, the images are much more important and instructive than any other measurement.

Gerald: 06/11/2016 05:31 CDT

Harukichou: The primary science objective of the Juno mission is a better understanding of Jupiter's interior, and conclusions about our solar system, when it was still young. More detail, e.g. here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/overview/index.html But I'd like to see connecting Jupiter's interior with the visible cloud top. I believe, that JunoCam is able to make discoveries of science value. It's up to the public, that is 'us', to evaluate the JunoCam images, and make them valuable for science.

davido: 06/11/2016 11:00 CDT

Can we expect images of Jupiter's lightning storms? And is there any chance of getting any images of Jupiter's rings?

Gerald: 06/12/2016 04:29 CDT

Davido: Some of Jupiter's cloud patterns are known to be particularly likely to show lightnings. The pros and cons to look closely at suggested spots on Jupiter are discussed on the JunoCam mission website https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/discussion Depending on the votings and technical constraints, lightning storms may be selected for imaging. You can open an account on the Juno Mission website, participate in discussions, and - starting in November 2016 - vote for imaging certain features, as your contribution to take images of features you're most interested in. Provided lightning storms will eventually be selected for imaging, there are realistic chances to actually see one or more lightnings, of course no warranty.

Gerald: 06/12/2016 04:51 CDT

About Jupiter's rings: It's certainly technically possible to have a try. But I'm unsure, whether there is someone out there, who can make a reliable prediction about the results. If according long exposure images (with high TDI counts) will be taken, I'll try to squeeze out faint features, like auroras or rings. I guess, others will try, as well.

Emily Lakdawalla: 06/13/2016 12:42 CDT

harukichou: Mission websites are a good place to find information about a mission, but the very best source is the NASA mission press kit. Just google "NASA Juno Press Kit" and you'll find a PDF that clearly explains the mission goals. We collect mission press kits, including Juno's, here: http://www.planetary.org/explore/resource-library/mission-press-kits.html Davido: I think the movies present the best hope for seeing lightning, because most of the imaging (after the start of the science mission) will be focused on sunlit areas of the globe. They are definitely planning to shoot images of the rings; look for at least 3 such images on Perijove 1, where they will be experimenting to see whether they are clearly visible with JunoCam at latitudes away from the equator, or only close to the equator. After seeing the results of the Perijove 1 imaging, they will discuss whether and when to do more ring imaging with JunoCam.

John Sheff: 06/13/2016 08:16 CDT

Hi, Emily, Great post as always! You mention in a couple of places that JOI takes place at 2:30 UT (on the 5th). Isn't that 19:30 PDT on the 4th rather 17:30 PDT as listed in your table?

Emily Lakdawalla: 06/16/2016 12:31 CDT

John, you are correct. Thanks for catching the error; I've fixed it.

Jonathan Chone: 06/18/2016 07:23 CDT

Hi Emily, thanks for your detail and numerous information of JunoCam. Since Juno will approach Jupiter at such a close distance on Perijove, is there any opportunity that we could see color images of inner moons of Jupiter?

southbound: 07/05/2016 02:58 CDT

Thank you for the detailed info. As I'm sure you are already aware there is no small amount of ill will right now being directed at the project people over the "timely release" of images. And I agree with them. It is sheer arrogance on the part of NASA or whomever is running this side-show to stick their nose up in the air and refuse to release raw data images pretty much immediately as in past missions. November? WTF?!?! This is their idea of public access? Shills for big money and their precious publications.

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