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NASA Spacecraft circling Jupiter Reveals Beauty of Solar System’s Biggest Planetary Storm

The images were clicked by NASA's spacecraft Juno, launched in 2011, that flew directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot on Monday

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The Great Red Spot on Jupiter
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is shown in this NASA Juno spacecraft photo released on July 12, 2017. VOA
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  • The up-close beauty of our solar system’s biggest planetary storm is being revealed by  NASA spacecraft
  • Juno flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, passing an amazingly close 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the monster storm
  • Swirling clouds are clearly visible in the 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm, which is big enough to swallow Earth and has been around for centuries

Cape Canaveral, California, July 14, 2017: A NASA spacecraft circling Jupiter is revealing the up-close beauty of our solar system’s biggest planetary storm.

Juno flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on Monday, passing an amazingly close 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the monster storm. The images snapped by JunoCam were beamed back Tuesday and posted online Wednesday. Then members of the public — so-called citizen scientists — were encouraged to enhance the raw images.

Swirling clouds are clearly visible in the 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm, which is big enough to swallow Earth and has been around for centuries.

“For hundreds of years scientists have been observing, wondering and theorizing about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said lead researcher Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now we have the best pictures ever of this iconic storm.”

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Information was still arriving Thursday from Juno’s science instruments. Bolton said it will take the time to analyze everything to shed “new light on the past, present, and future of the Great Red Spot.”

Juno’s next close encounter with the giant gas planet will be in September. The Great Red Spot won’t be in Juno’s scopes then, however.

Launched in 2011, Juno arrived at Jupiter last July. It is only the second spacecraft to orbit the solar system’s largest planet, but is passing much closer than NASA’s Galileo did from 1995 through 2003. (VOA)

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Chandra Observatory By NASA Back in Action

Scientists are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options were available to recover the gyro to operational performance

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NASA's Chandra Observatory back in action. Pixabay

NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory, observing the universe in high-energy light since 1999, is back in action after suffering a glitch due to the failure of the gyroscope and going into safe mode last week.

The cause of Chandra’s safe mode on October 10 has now been understood and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode, according to the US space agency.

“The safe mode was caused by a glitch in one of Chandra’s gyroscopes resulting in a 3-second period of bad data that, in turn, led the on-board computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum. The erroneous momentum indication then triggered the safe mode,” NASA said in a statement late on Monday.

The team has completed plans to switch gyroscopes and place the gyroscope that experienced the glitch in reserve.

Once configured with a series of pre-tested flight software patches, the team will return Chandra to science operations which are expected to commence by the end of this week, NASA said.

On October 10, Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode, in which the observatory is put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to back-up units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun.

Chandra is 19 years old, which is well beyond the original design lifetime of five years. In 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years.

NASA
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015, is also nearly out of fuel and might run out as early as October. Flickr

The US space agency said that it was also continuing to work towards resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope that on October 5, entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) being used to point and steady the telescope failed.

Gyroscopes help spacecraft maintain proper orientation.

Scientists are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options were available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

Till that time, science operations with Hubble have been suspended.

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Besides Chandra and Hubble, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope is also almost out of fuel. Kepler has found about 70 per cent of all known alien worlds to date.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015, is also nearly out of fuel and might run out as early as October.

The space agency’s Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity too have faced issues of late. (IANS)