How to help scientists study the atmosphere on Jupiter

An image of the Juno spacecraft’s 22nd orbit around Jupiter shows the area close to the planet’s north pole. There is an enormous diversity in the colors and shapes of these vortices (hurricane-like storms). Scientists need to catalog these storms to understand how they form. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/SwRI/Ramanakumar Sankar

A new citizen science project, led by researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with support from NASA, allows volunteers to play an important role in helping scientists learn more about Jupiter’s atmosphere. Citizen scientists can help astrophysicists categorize tens of thousands of stunning images captured by the Juno spacecraft using just a web browser.

The planet Jupiter is more than 467 million miles from Earth and has a vastly different atmosphere made of hydrogen and helium. Yet Jupiter’s atmosphere contains a great diversity of clouds of different shapes and sizes, just like our own planet. Learning about Jupiter’s atmosphere can give us new insights into weather patterns on our own planet and help us discover more about the early beginnings of our solar system.

The projectcalled Jovian Vortex Hunter, is the latest citizen science effort from the University of Minnesota within the Zooniverse platform. Co-founded by the Adler Planetarium and Oxford, Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular human-powered online research platform with more than two million volunteers from around the world. These volunteers act as armchair scientists and archivists who help academic research teams with their projects from the comfort of their own homes.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has completed more than 40 orbits around Jupiter and has collected gigabytes of images from JunoCam. The Jovian Vortex Hunter citizen science project led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities has more than 60,000 images from this dataset. Credit: NASA/JPL

Images for this project are from the JunoCam camera aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Juno launched in 2011 and reached Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data ever since. Juno is located in a very elliptical orbit around Jupiter and comes to a few thousand kilometers above the cloud tops on its closest approach. Juno has completed more than 40 orbits around Jupiter and has collected gigabytes of images from JunoCam. The Jovian Vortex Hunter project has over 60,000 images from this dataset.

In this project, citizen scientists is asked to identify atmospheric vortices, which are clouds with a round or elliptical shape like hurricanes. Scientists are especially interested in the physics behind why these atmospheric features come in different shapes and sizes.

“There are so many images that it would take several years for our small team to examine them all,” said postdoctoral researcher Ramanakumar Sankar of the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy, who is leading the project. “We need help from the public to identify which images have vortices, where they are located, and how they appear. With the catalog of features (vortexes in particular) in place, we can study the physics behind how these features are formed and how they are related to the structure of the atmosphere, especially under the clouds, where we can’t directly observe them.”

This tutorial from the citizen science project Jovian Vortex Hunter shows how citizen scientists can help astrophysicists by identifying and categorizing vortices in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Credit: Jovian Vortex Hunter, Zooniverse

For those who think they don’t have the expertise or skill to examine spacecraft images of Jupiter, don’t worry. The Jovian Vortex Hunter Project has several helpful guides and tutorials on the different types of features in these images and tips for identifying vortices. Sankar said each statue is examined by at least 16 people.

“If one person has trouble categorizing an image, maybe others will too,” Sankar said. “That may indicate that we’ve found something new or unique that we’re investigating further.”

Sankar said the information they get from the citizen scientists will not only be used to study Jupiter, but will also help write a computer algorithm that could speed up future identification of Jupiter’s atmospheric features by combining computer help with human expertise. .

To participate in the project as a citizen scientist, go to the Jovian Vortex Hunter website.

Clouds on Jupiter rising over the surrounding atmosphere

More information:
Jovian Vortex Hunter: … jovian-vortex-hunter

Quote: How to Help Scientists Study the Atmosphere on Jupiter (June 2022), retrieved June 22, 2022 from

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