When scientists with NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter decided to add a camera to the spacecraft, they didn't exactly know who would be using it. The point of JunoCam was to let the public take pictures of the solar system's biggest planet in hopes of sharing the thrill of exploration with a wider group of people.
"We're taking a leap of faith that if we put this stuff out there, people will come," said planetary scientist Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, intrepid leader of the informal JunoCam band.
Turns out many of the 100 or so volunteers who have processed Juno imagery have an artistic streak. Here's a look at some of their prettiest and most scientifically valuable pictures.
Juno's "Starry Night"
The first time Juno swooped close to Jupiter, JunoCam contributor XBSR69 looked at a picture of the clouds and storms raging in the planet's atmosphere and saw a celestial version of "The Starry Night," an 1889 oil-on-canvas painting by Vincent van Gogh.
"The artistic contributions are amazing," Hansen-Koharcheck told Seeker. "I don't see what these people see, but I'm so impressed and I love it when I can see it."
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It was Jupiter's clouds that struck citizen scientist Schwarzwald-32, who enhanced the color and sharpened the image taken by Juno during its first close flyby. "The camera is on Juno to do outreach ... but there's no reason we can't learn about Jupiter from looking at the pictures," Hansen-Koharcheck said at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco last week.
Contributor Denali-51 took a more global perspective when Juno made it first close orbital flyby on Aug. 27, 2016.
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"Dodged and burned," writes contributor Timmerman-61, who called this image a "personal print-making recipe, attempt one."
Think your weather is bad? Check out the storms over Jupiter's south pole, courtesy of contributor Arctica-85
After some work with Adobe Photoshop, designer Christina Chester uploaded "Purple Phase" - a nod to Jimi Hendrix's "Pulple Haze." "Being an old hippie," Hansen- Koharcheck told Seeker, "it's one of my favorites."
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Dance of the Clouds
Contributor Orion76 processed this JunoCam image, taken during the probe's first close approach to Jupiter. "Natural Turbulance" is what happens when atmospheric clouds and gas dance in the void of space.
The south pole of Jupiter is captured by JunoCam on Dec. 11 during the spacecraft's third pass by Jupiter. Contributor Paulpaino-17 notes that the RGB composite is "adjusted for aesthetics." The JunoCam team is scrambling to understand how the probe's prolonged 53-day orbit around Jupiter will impact sun angles and viewing opportunity for the camera, which is fixed on the spacecraft. A possible problem with Juno's rocket engine has delayed the spacecraft's shift into a 14-day orbit around Jupiter. A 21-day orbit also is under consideration, Hansen-Koharcheck said. "The geometry is going to evolve to a place quite different than we planned," she said.
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