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Just in Time for Halloween, NASA’s Juno Mission Spots Eerie “Face” on Jupiter


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The image shows turbulent clouds and storms along Jupiter’s terminator, the dividing line between the day and night sides of the planet. The low angle of sunlight highlights the complex topography of features in this region, which scientists have studied to better understand the processes playing out in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

On Sept. 7, 2023, during its 54th close flyby of Jupiter, NASA’s Juno mission captured this view of an area in the giant planet’s far northern regions called Jet N7. The image shows turbulent clouds and storms along Jupiter’s terminator, the dividing line between the day and night sides of the planet. The low angle of sunlight highlights the complex topography of features in this region, which scientists have studied to better understand the processes playing out in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

As often occurs in views from Juno, Jupiter’s clouds in this picture lend themselves to pareidolia, the effect that causes observers to perceive faces or other patterns in largely random patterns.

Citizen scientist Vladimir Tarasov made this image using raw data from the JunoCam instrument. At the time the raw image was taken, the Juno spacecraft was about 4,800 miles (about 7,700 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, at a latitude of about 69 degrees north.

JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at https://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing. More information about NASA citizen science can be found at https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience.

More information about Juno is at https://www.nasa.gov/juno and https://missionjuno.swri.edu. For more about this finding and other science results, see https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/science-findings.

Image credit:
Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Image processing by Vladimir Tarasov © CC BY

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      Ground track of STS-9’s orbit, inclined 57 degrees to the equator, passing over 80 percent of the world’s land masses.
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      Left: The rotating dome experiment to study visual vestibular interactions. Middle: Owen K. Garriott prepares to place blood samples in a passive freezer. Right: Inflight photograph of the STS-9 crew.

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      Left: Workers at Edwards Air Force Base in California safe space shuttle Columbia after its return from space. Middle: Atop a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, Columbia begins its cross country journey to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Right: The STS-9 crew during their postflight press conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
      The journal Science published preliminary results from Spacelab 1 in their July 13, 1984, issue. The two Spacelab modules flew a total of 16 times, the last one during the STS-90 Neurolab mission in April 1998. The module that flew on STS-9 and eight other missions is displayed at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, while the other module resides at the Airbus Defence and Space plant in Bremen, Germany, not on public display.

      The Spacelab long module that flew on STS-9 and eight other missions on display at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia.
      Enjoy the crew narrate a video about the STS-9 mission. Read Shaw’s, Garriott’s, and Parker’s recollections of the STS-9 mission in their oral histories with the JSC History Office.
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      Narrow beams of energy emerge from hot spots on the surface of a neutron star in this artist’s concept. When one of these beams sweeps past Earth, astronomers detect a pulse of light. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab Pulsars are a type of neutron star, the city-sized leftover of a massive sun that has exploded as a supernova. Neutron stars, containing more mass than our Sun in a ball less than 17 miles wide, represent the densest matter astronomers can study directly. They possess strong magnetic fields, produce streams of energetic particles, and spin quickly – 716 times a second for the fastest known. Pulsars, in addition, emit narrow beams of energy that swing lighthouse-like through space as the objects rotate. When one of these beams sweeps past Earth, astronomers detect a pulse of emission.
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      Elizabeth Hays
      Fermi Project Scientist
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      This movie shows the Vela pulsar in gamma rays detected by the Large Area Telescope aboard NASA’s Fermi observatory. A single pulsar cycle is repeated. Bluer colors indicate gamma rays with higher energies. Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration The Vela pulsar and its famous sibling in the Crab Nebula are young, solitary objects, formed about 11,000 and 970 years ago, respectively. Their emissions arise as their magnetic fields spin through space, but this also gradually slows their rotation. The younger Crab pulsar spins nearly 30 times a second, while Vela clocks in about a third as fast.
      The Old and the Restless
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      Thanks to a great combination of gamma-ray brightness and smooth spin slowdown, the MSP J1231-1411 is an ideal “timer” for use in gravitational wave searches. By monitoring a collection of stable MSPs, astronomers hope to link timing changes to passing low-frequency gravitational waves – ripples in space-time – that cannot be detected by current gravitational observatories. It was discovered in one of the first radio searches targeting Fermi gamma-ray sources not associated with any known counterpart at other wavelengths, a technique that turned out to be exceptionally successful.
      “Before Fermi, we didn’t know if MSPs would be visible at high energies, but it turns out they mostly radiate in gamma rays and now make up fully half of our catalog,” said co-author Lucas Guillemot, an associate astronomer at the Laboratory of Physics and Chemistry of the Environment and Space and the University of Orleans, France.
      Along Come the Spiders
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      This artist’s concept illustrates a possible model for the transitional pulsar J1023. When astronomers can detect pulses in radio (green), the pulsar’s energetic outflow holds back its companion’s gas stream. Sometimes the stream surges, creating a bright disk around the pulsar that can persist for years. The disk shines brightly in X-rays, and gas reaching the neutron star produces jets that emit gamma rays (magenta), obscuring the pulses until the disk eventually dissipates. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Some pulsars don’t require a partner to switch things up. J2021+4026, a young, isolated pulsar located about 4,900 light-years away, underwent a puzzling “mode change” in 2011, dimming its gamma rays over about a week and then, years later, slowly returning to its original brightness. Similar behavior had been seen in some radio pulsars, but this was a first in gamma rays. Astronomers suspect the event may have been triggered by crustal cracks that temporarily changed the pulsar‘s magnetic field.
      Farther afield, Fermi discovered the first gamma-ray pulsar in another galaxy, the neighboring Large Magellanic Cloud, in 2015. And in 2021, astronomers announced the discovery of a giant gamma-ray flare from a different type of neutron star (called a magnetar) located in the Sculptor galaxy, about 11.4 million light-years away.
      “More than 15 years after its launch, Fermi remains an incredible discovery machine, and pulsars and their neutron star kin are leading the way,” said Elizabeth Hays, the mission’s project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
      Explore the Fermi gamma-ray pulsar catalog on WorldWide Telescope
      Max Planck Institute release
      By Francis Reddy
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Media contact:
      Claire Andreoli
      claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      (301) 286-1940
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      Last Updated Nov 28, 2023 Editor Francis Reddy Location Goddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      5 min read
      ‘Digital Winglets’ for Real Time Flight Paths 
      Alaska Airlines Captain Bret Peyton looks at route options presented by Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR) during a test of the software at Langley Research Center. The program connects to onboard systems and runs on a tablet called an Electronic Flight Bag.Credit: David Wing Before airplanes even reach the runway, pilots must file a plan to inform air traffic controllers where they’re going and the path they are going to take. When planes are in the air, however, that plan often changes. From turbulence causing passenger discomfort and additional fuel use to unexpected weather patterns blocking the original path, pilots have to think on the fly and inform air traffic controllers of any modifications to their routes.
      In the past, these changes would have to happen suddenly and with little lead time. But as airplanes have become more digitally connected, the flying machines can take advantage of the additional data they receive, and a NASA-developed technology can help pilots find the best path every time. 
      NASA has explored methods to improve aircraft efficiency since its inception. Among the agency’s most famous contributions are winglets, upturned vertical flanges at the ends of airplane wings that eliminate turbulence at the wingtip and significantly save fuel. Fuel efficiency is critical to future aircraft development, as it not only improves performance and the weight it can carry but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
      David Wing, principal researcher of air traffic management at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, develops advanced autonomy systems for aircraft, allowing operators to directly manage flight paths in crowded skies. He noticed some of the same technology used for safe routing could also optimize routes for flights already in the air. Allowing pilots to identify a better path as soon as it’s available could save time and money.
      “Air traffic control is there to keep the aircraft safely separated from other aircraft,” said Wing. “So, the trick is, when you need to change your routing, what route do you ask for, and how much will it save you?”
      In this screenshot of the APiJET Digital Winglets software based on NASA technology, a route is plotted along navigational waypoints, presenting three options that would save fuel and time based on real-time information. Credit: APiJET LLC Under Wing’s lead, NASA developed Traffic-Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR), a piece of software pilots and ground operations teams can use to find better routes in transit. TASAR uses a genetic algorithm, a machine learning system that finds the optimal answer by pitting hundreds of route changes against each other and seeing which one comes out on top. TASAR takes a map of the area and draws hundreds of lines radiating from the airplane. These lines represent potential routes the plane could take. The software whittles down every route it generates, avoiding ones that stray into no-fly zones or dangerous weather systems or get too close to other aircraft until it’s found the most efficient route the airplane can take. Then, it’s up to the pilot to take the computer’s advice. Information is constantly updated using sensors on the airplane and connections to ground-based services, which TASAR takes into account.
      “The algorithms had been tested and matured already for many years in our research, so they were in pretty good shape,” Wing said. “But we had to connect this system to a real aircraft, which meant that we needed to be able to access data from the onboard avionics.”
      On NASA test flights, the software worked perfectly, but for TASAR to break into more flights, commercial planes needed to be able to access large amounts of data. As it turned out, a solution was close at hand.
      The company iJET originally built components that could keep planes connected to the latest information available on the ground, which often wasn’t available in the sky. After developing better antennas, the company soon began working on a new integrated computer system for airplanes to collect data and stay connected to ground-based information sources. When looking for a “killer app” for the system, the company discovered TASAR.
      “We saw that NASA was getting to the conclusion of this work, and we took a business decision to pick up the baton,” said Rob Green, CEO of the company.
      After being acquired by another company called Aviation Partners, the Seattle-based company was renamed APiJET in 2018 and became the first company to license TASAR from NASA. APiJET proceeded to tie the software to the in-flight computer system. The company’s version of TASAR is called Digital Winglets, named after the NASA invention.

      Frontier Airlines was among the first companies to test Digital Winglets for its fleet of aircraft. In testing, the commercial implementation of NASA’s TASAR technology provided fuel savings of 2%, which adds up at airline scale. Credit: Frontier Airlines The app runs on electronic flight bags, computer devices approved for use in flight operations by the Federal Aviation Administration, most commonly Apple iPads. Green said there are no plans to integrate it directly into a cockpit instrument panel because updating an app is easier. In testing with Alaska Airlines, Green said the program saved 2% on fuel, working out to approximately 28,000 pounds of fuel per hundred flights.

      “Two percent may not sound like much, but little savings can really add up at airline scale,” Green said. 
      Several more airlines have tested the technology, and Frontier Airlines is currently field testing for a potential deployment of Digital Winglets across its fleet. APiJET still keeps in touch with the developers at NASA to further research TASAR’s benefits and build out its commercial capabilities.
      “Everybody that worked on TASAR at NASA should be really proud of their direct impact on fuel savings and carbon reduction,” Green said. “It’s a lot to wrap your head around, but it works.”
      NASA has a long history of transferring technology to the private sector. The agency’s Spinoff publication profiles NASA technologies that have transformed into commercial products and services, demonstrating the broader benefits of America’s investment in its space program. Spinoff is a publication of the Technology Transfer program in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
      For more information on how NASA brings space technology down to Earth, visit:
      www.spinoff.nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Nov 22, 2023 Related Terms
      Spinoffs Technology Transfer Technology Transfer & Spinoffs Explore More
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