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Jupiter scientists need your help hunting for storms in stunning photos

the great red spot
This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major)

With a massive planet come massive storms.

Such storms on Jupiter are the focus of a new citizen science project hosted on Zooniverse. Jovian Vortex Hunter (opens in new tab) launched Tuesday (June 21) to allow anyone around the world to help scientists search for storms on the largest planet of our solar system.

The project, which pores through data from NASA's Juno spacecraft, is "aimed at studying the different types of clouds that form on Jupiter, in order to better understand how the atmosphere of the largest planet in solar system works," Ramanakumar Sankar, the lead of the project and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota, wrote in a blog post (opens in new tab).

Related: Juno snaps stunning photos of crescent Jupiter and Ganymede

Juno has been operating at the huge planet for nearly six years (it arrived on July 4, 2016). Already, its JunoCam project allows citizen scientists to enhance raw imagery from the spacecraft.

The new project will focus on vortices that form in the clouds of Jupiter, which puzzle scientists with many questions about their formation and evolution, Sankar wrote.

"There is very little we know about why the clouds in vortices have so many colors — is it due to the atmospheric composition? Or are the clouds forming at different altitudes, where the pressure and temperature affect the crystalline structure, resulting a different color?"

The researchers are hoping to tackle these topics by asking project participants to catalog where vortices are forming, which helps the physicists figure out their origin story.

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image of Jupiter using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)

The project plans to generate a catalog of different types of vortices, and to "match them with the underlying physics/chemistry of the location that they form in," Sankar wrote.

"With your help," he added, "we could learn so much about the Jovian atmosphere and processes that form the amazing clouds that we see."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.