JUNO MISSION TO JUPITER LAUNCHED IN 2011 IS NOW 3 MONTHS AWAY FROM A FLY BY……..OF EARTH.
Data Map By: NASA Solar System Simulator Interactive (All links and 2 videos below).
We’ve learned about the New Horizons mission to Pluto but we have another mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program and it’s on its way to the Jovian planet, Jupiter. Of course that is, after it pays Earth one more visit. Let’s take a few minutes to see what it’s all about…..
Launched at 1625 UTC (1225 EDT) on August 5, 2011 from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an Atlas 5-551rocket (AV-029) the Juno mission, as its named, incredibly does not represent an acronym. In Roman mythology, the GOD Jupiter cast a veil of clouds around himself in order to conceal his mischievous undertakings. Only his wife, the Goddess Juno could see through the shroud. The Juno mission intends to do just that as it sets out to improve our understanding of the formation, evolution and structure of the second largest object in our solar system by mass. Jupiter’s dense clouds and massive storms safeguard its secrets from casual observers, fly-bys as it swallows Earth killer asteroids leaving nothing more than a black smudge in its upper atmosphere. Juno was also the Daughter to Saturn and mother to Mars and Vulcan.
Scheduled to arrive at the gas giant on July 4, 2016 its trajectory takes it on a 5 year journey which involves deep space maneuvers and on October 9, 2013 it will make a fly-by of Earth in order to gain a gravity assist.
It is well known that Jupiter has no known solid surface as it’s mostly comprised of hydrogen and helium. Those two elements grow more and more dense as you work deeper into the planet. Ultimately it’s an accepted theory that at some point the atmosphere becomes a fluid acting like an electrically conducting metal. Deeper than that may even reveal a solid core of heavy elements but it’s not certain. Either way, whatever the inner workings of Jupiter are, somehow they maintain incredibly intense magnetic fields. The most intense auroras in the solar system occur at Jupiter’s poles and its magnetospheres dipole moment is 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s.
The spacecraft will be in a highly elliptical, 90 degree, 11-14 day polar orbit which will help keep the craft out of Jupiter’s radiation belts and is scheduled to make 33 orbits all the while gathering data. The 4 main goals are……
1) Study of the deep insides, gravity and magnetic fields.
2) Gain clues as to how Jupiter formed through measuring water content in the atmosphere.
3) Sample different aspects of Jupiter’s atmosphere such as particles, electrical fields, auroras and plasma waves.
4) Photograph the planet in many different wavelengths of light to include visible light (ROYGBIV) and its neighbors ultraviolet and infrared.
A couple interesting “extras” onboard are 3 LEGO figurines depicting Galileo, Jupiter and Juno as well as a plaque from the Italian Space Agency – in Italian and dedicated to the astronomer Galileo that reads:
“On the 11th it was in this formation – and the star closest to Jupiter was half the size than the other and very close to the other so that during the previous nights all of the three observed stars looked of the same dimension and among them equally afar; so that it is evident that around Jupiter there are three moving stars invisible till this time to everyone.”
Juno mission homepage: http://missionjuno.swri.edu/
NASA Juno mission page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/main/index.html
NASA Science Juno mission page: http://science1.nasa.gov/missions/juno/
NASA Eyes On The Solar System (Interactive Solar System): http://eyes.nasa.gov/
NASA JPL Solar System Simulator (Interactive Solar System): http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/
NASA New Frontiers program: http://discoverynewfrontiers.nasa.gov/missions/index.cfml
Juno on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NASAJuno
Lockheed Martin Juno Spacecraft: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/juno.html
Juno Mission Trajectory: