Some of the most stunning images of Jupiter were taken by the Juno spacecraft, which has been in orbit around the planet since 2016. And many of these images have explored Jupiter’s strange atmosphere, including peeking through the many layers of the atmosphere. A civic scientist project is now inviting members of the public to help with this work by identifying atmospheric characteristics in Juno data.
It’s called a project by researchers at the University of Minnesota and NASA Jovian whirlwind hunter and aims to categorize the different types of clouds observed on Jupiter in terms of their shapes and sizes. It takes data from Juno’s JunoCam image and asks volunteers to look for specific features called atmospheric vortices. These clouds have a certain round or elliptical shape, similar to how a hurricane appears when viewed from above.
By asking for public help, researchers can process data much faster than they could on their own. “There are so many images that it will take our small team a few years to look at them all,” said Ramanakumar Sankar, project manager, at statement. “We need help from the public to identify which images have vortices, where they are and how they appear. With the catalog of characteristics (especially vortices) we can study the physics behind how these characteristics are formed and how they relate to the structure of the atmosphere, especially under clouds, where we cannot directly observe them.
The project uses the Zooniverse platform to present images, which volunteers then scan for vortices. Once this has been done many times, the data can be used for both scientific analysis and training in algorithm performance and feature identification.
And if you’re wondering what’s going on, if someone has difficulty identifying a feature, or if different volunteers disagree on whether a feature is present in the image or not, these are actually useful data for researchers. “If one person has trouble categorizing an image, maybe others will,” Sankar explained. “It could mean that we have discovered something new or unique that we are researching more closely.”
To participate in the project, you can go to Jovian whirlwind hunter website.