NASA loses more than 200 Jupiter photos after Juno probe camera glitch

An image of Jupiter captured by JunoCam during the mission's 48th flyby.
An image of Jupiter captured by JunoCam during the mission's 48th flyby. (Image credit: NASA/JPL/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Thomas Thomopoulos CC BY)

For the second flyby in a row, a key camera studying Jupiter has struggled to snap photos as usual.

NASA's Juno spacecraft launched in 2011 and arrived at Jupiter in 2016; since then, it has made nearly 50 flybys of the largest planet in our solar system and caught valuable glimpses of Jupiter's large moons, each a strange world in its own right. But during the spacecraft's most recent flyby, on Jan. 22, the camera was able to capture only about one-fifth of the planned images.

A similar issue occurred on the previous flyby, in December; mission personnel believe that the camera glitch stems from the camera reaching an unusually high temperature and are continuing to troubleshoot the issue, according to a statement.

Related: Jupiter's true colors pop in new images from NASA's Juno mission

Shortly after the Dec. 14 flyby, Juno experienced a memory issue that sent the spacecraft into safe mode, delaying the transmission of data to Earth, according to a statement at the time. Juno bounced back smoothly and most of the data reached Earth safely, but JunoCam struggled early in the flyby.

The camera had been directed to capture 90 images during the December flyby, but the first four photos turned out badly. The mission team determined that when JunoCam turned on, temperatures rose enough to interfere with photography and the instrument had cooled off by the end of those first four images.

But now, the issue seems to have recurred, this time for longer — 23 hours rather than 36 minutes, according to NASA. This time, the glitch left 214 images unusable, with only 44 decent images returned after the instrument cooled sufficiently.

"The mission team is evaluating JunoCam engineering data acquired during the two recent flybys — the 47th and 48th of the mission — and is investigating the root cause of the anomaly and mitigation strategies," NASA officials wrote. "JunoCam will remain powered on for the time being and the camera continues to operate in its nominal state."

Juno's next flyby will occur on March 1.

Mission personnel considered launching Juno without a camera onboard, since the spacecraft's science goals didn't require such an instrument, but the agency decided to add JunoCam as a public outreach project. The color camera snaps photos of the tops of Jupiter's dynamic clouds, with the public suggesting where to aim and processing the collected images.

And JunoCam wasn't guaranteed to last even this long, according to NASA: It was designed to survive just seven passes through the dangerous environment surrounding Jupiter.

Juno itself is also operating beyond its primary mission, which ended in July 2021; it is currently expected to continue as long as September 2025.

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.

  • bwana4swahili
    Good to see I'm not the only one that loses pictures on occasion due to camera/memory glitches.
  • Nongkoloh
    Glitch with memory lost item. Formating it and try to recover it with powerfull recovery software. Our heart is absoviusly. How the same was with probe that coast in billion dollar too. That will install a new software from earth ( do their? ) wkwkwk ....