June 29, 2017
Spacecraft Juno Nears Jupiter To Begin Exciting, Historic Mission

NASA scientists are poised on the brink of discovery this week as the spacecraft Juno nears its informative mission to Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. The huge mass of Jupiter is also one of the brightest objects in the sky, coming only after the sun, the moon, and the planet Venus. According to Nine Planets, Jupiter has a total of four moons, first discovered by famous astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610, called Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

The first week in August will mark five years since Juno, a completely solar-powered spacecraft, began its journey toward Jupiter. If all goes well, Juno will slip into the Jupiter orbit on July 4, beginning its historic mission to gain more information about the gaseous planet. Aptly named for the wife of Roman god Jupiter, Juno is planned to orbit and record data for a full year, after which Juno will then dive into the atmosphere of Jupiter and burn up.

While other spacecraft have flown close to Jupiter, Juno is the first to gather information at such close range. The Galileo orbited Jupiter for eight years, transmitting valuable information about the Jovian moons as well as the first real look at Jupiter's gaseous interior, before plummeting into the atmosphere of Jupiter, as Juno will ultimately do as well.

Juno will be entering Jupiter orbit near the north pole, allowing for better views than the Galileo received from its entrance point.

The Daily Galaxy reports that the Juno project manager, Rick Nybakken, of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said earlier this week that after nearly five years of spaceflight, Juno is now poised to begin preparation to slip into the orbit of Jupiter.
"We have over five years of spaceflight experience and only 10 days to Jupiter orbit insertion. It is a great feeling to put all the interplanetary space in the rear view mirror and have the biggest planet in the solar system in our windshield."
Dr. Glenn Orton, also of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, notes this historic Juno mission will hopefully help scientists to answer the plethora of Jupiter's mysteries.
"The combined efforts of an international team of amateur and professional astronomers have provided us with an incredibly rich data set over the past eight months. Together with the new results from Juno, this data set will allow researchers to characterize Jupiter's global thermal structure, cloud cover and distribution of gaseous species. We can then hope to answer questions like what drives Jupiter's atmospheric changes, and how the weather we see is connected to processes hidden deep within the planet."

Juno has endured a long journey to finally reach Jupiter. Scientists are sitting on the edge of their seats as they watch to ensure that Juno enters orbit into Jupiter, and subsequently gleans massive knowledge of the true nature of Jupiter, and all its deep mysteries.

[Image via Shutterstock]