Here at Skyfire we love clouds, and the undisputed king of clouds in the Solar System is Jupiter! Now NASA is giving us Earthbound photographers a chance to partake in targeting, taking, and editing the photographs they'll be sending back from Jupiter when their mission reaches the planet on July 4, 2016. NASA is asking for help from the public to decide what features and areas to photograph with their specialized camera, JunoCam, and there will also be later opportunities to help process the images into color photographs. As for the technology, JunoCam is specifically designed to handle the rotations of the camera (which are twice per minute) while returning high-resolution images without blur. NASA describes it as a panorama of sorts with each column of pixels being exposed in sequence and tuned to the spacecraft’s rotation. In fact, JunoCam has already had a test-run photographing the Earth in 2013!
This is an incredible opportunity - not just because of the camera technology that will allow these high-resolution space photos, but also because it is a chance for members of the public to become involved and contribute to the mission. While at Jupiter, JunoCam will pass the planet every two weeks, capturing approximately one dozen images each time. Although the camera will get as close as 3,100 miles above Jupiter, there will be other points between each 14 day period where NASA will rely on images and information provided from the ground as the camera will be too far away to see details for mission planning.
In addition to photographing Jupiter's trademark characteristics, and both its North and South poles (for the first time ever!), NASA wants to capture images of other interesting features and that's where you come in! Of course key features such as Jupiter's bands, spots, and clouds are already on NASA's shot list, so what they are really looking for is input on less well-known characteristics of the planet which might have caught your attention while planet gazing through your telescope. If you have photos taken from the ground and have a recommendation for a feature that should be given photographic priority, be sure to let the team at NASA know by getting involved here.
And now if you'll excuse us, we're off to look through our telescopes and brainstorm ideas for JunoCam.
Andrea & Matt