NASA Investigating Another Camera Glitch As Juno Spacecraft As Curious Bug Loses 214 Images
NASA is scouring engineering data taken by the orbiter's JunoCam in order to understand why the majority of images from the spacecraft were not acquired. The missing data is from Juno's most recent flyby of Jupiter on January 22, 2023.
The Juno spacecraft began its journey toward Jupiter back in August 2011. After a 5-year trek that covered 1,740 million miles, the spacecraft began sending back critical data and images that have enabled NASA personnel to have a better understanding of the gas giant. Juno's primary mission is to probe beneath the planet's dense clouds and help answer questions as to the origin of the planet, the solar system, and other giant planets throughout the cosmos. However, during its most recent flybys, the orbiter encountered an issue with the camera similar to one that happened on its previous close pass.
Following the 47th close pass of Jupiter, NASA said the solar-powered orbiter's downlink was disrupted while sending data to mission controllers from its onboard computer. At that time, the agency believed the issue was an "inability to directly access the spacecraft memory storing the science data collected during the flyby—most likely caused by a radiation spike" as the orbiter flew through a radiation-intensive portion of the planet's magnetosphere.
Juno made its 48th close pass of the gas giant on January 22, 2023. The team noticed an anomalous temperature rise after JunoCam was powered on in preparation for the flyby. The incident was similar in nature to when the downlink was disrupted following the 47th flyby. However this time the issue persisted for a longer period of time (23 hours compared to 36 minutes). As with the previous hiccup, once the anomaly that created the rise in temperature cleared, the camera returned to normal operation.
The anomaly caused the first 214 JunoCam images to be rendered unusable. The remaining 44 images, however, were good quality and usable, according to NASA.
JunoCam is one of five scientific instruments onboard the Juno spacecraft. It is a color, visible-light camera which is designed to capture images of Jupiter's cloud tops. Its specific purpose was for public engagement, but has turned out to be a vastly important piece of hardware for scientific investigations. NASA says that the camera was originally designed to operate in Jupiter's high-energy particle environment for around seven orbits, but it has lasted much longer.
Juno will make its 49th flyby of Jupiter on March 1, 2023.