Jan. 20 (UPI) -- NASA is making space exploration more democratic. It's now up to the public to decide where Juno will point its camera, the JunoCam, during the probe's next pass by Jupiter's north pole.
Juno recently rounded the gas giant's southern pole. The craft's 53-day orbit is highly elliptical; most of it is spent at a considerable distance from Jupiter. During the portion of the orbit called PeriJove, or PJ, however, Juno swings in tight.
The flyby from north to south pole offers a two-hour window for close-up photographs. Because time is brief, Juno can only target specific points of interest for in-depth imaging.
NASA has offered the public a chance to decide which regions JunoCam should focus on.
"The pictures JunoCam can take depict a narrow swath of territory the spacecraft flies over, so the points of interest imaged can provide a great amount of detail," Candy Hansen, Juno co-investigator at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, said in a news release. "They play a vital role in helping the Juno science team establish what is going on in Jupiter's atmosphere at any moment. We are looking forward to seeing what people from outside the science team think is important."
The next PeriJove will happen on Feb. 2. This is the fourth PJ and the second time the public has had a say in where Juno points its camera. Voting for PJ4 is now open.
"It is great to be able to share excitement and science from the Juno mission with the public in this way," added Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Amateur scientists, artists, students and whole classrooms are providing the world with their unique perspectives of Jupiter."
Public participation doesn't end with voting. Flyby images from each PJ pass are posted to Juno's mission website, where they can be accessed and processed by amateur scientists.