An Unknown Glitch on the Juno Probe Caused Loss of 200+ Photos of Jupiter

JunoCam Juno Spacecraft

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft team is currently evaluating data to determine why a majority of photos captured by the JunoCam in its most recent flyby were “unusable.” While similar to a previous glitch, this new one lasted much longer and resulted in the loss of 214 photos.

JunoCam — the camera system on board the Juno spacecraft — is described by NASA as a color, visible-light camera that is designed to capture pictures of Jupiter’s cloud tops.

“It was included on the spacecraft specifically for purposes of public engagement but has proven to be important for science investigations also,” the Juno team explains. “The camera was originally designed to operate in Jupiter’s high-energy particle environment for at least seven orbits but has survived far longer.”

JunoCam Juno Spacecraft

The JunoCam has provided a multitude of gorgeous photos of the Solar System’s largest planet, but a recent unknown glitch has caused it to fail in recent flybys.

Scientists are currently evaluating engineering data to determine why the majority of photos taken by the solar-powered orbiter were not saved. The issue took place during the spacecraft’s most recent flyby of Jupiter on January 22, and NASA says that the data it currently has shows that the camera system experienced an issue that is similar to one that occurred during its last close flyby of the gas giant in December — an “anomalous temperature rise” after it was powered on — although this problem persisted for far longer.

The first glitch only took the system offline for 36 minutes, while this most recent issue lasted for 23 hours. The photos in this story are some of the ones that were taken after the JunoCam recovered from the problem.

JunoCam Juno Spacecraft
JunoCam’s image #222, taken after the camera recovered from its power on anomaly, shows Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. The image was acquired at an altitude of 124,735 km, with a resolution of 84 km/pixel.

“As with the previous occurrence, once the anomaly that caused the temperature rise cleared, the camera returned to normal operation and the remaining 44 images were of good quality and usable,” the Juno team reports.

The team is currently evaluating the data that they have to determine the root cause of the issue as Juno is scheduled to make its next close flyby on March 1. The mission team hopes to have a mitigation strategy in place before then.

The JunoCam will remain powered on for now and the mission team says that to date, it continues to operate in its nominal state. It is likely the mission team will provide an update as soon as they are able.

Image credits: NASA, JunoCam