The Juno spacecraft was launched five years ago by NASA, from Florida. It is now approaching Jupiter, the fifth planet in our Solar System. The planet could hold important clues about the development of the Solar System. Juno will fire its main engine to enter Jupiter’s orbit.
NASA’s spacecraft has already entered Jupiter’s magnetosphere. It is an area which surrounds the planet and encompasses a very strong magnetic field. Project scientists will take a look at beeps coming from Juno, which will signal if the engine burn is going as scheduled.
Steve Levin, a project scientist, says that glimpses of Jupiter have been seen by unmanned missions as early as the 1970s. But a lot of questions about Jupiter and the development of the Solar System remain. For example, why is the famous Great Red Spot, a hurricane that’s been going on for centuries, fading?
Juno will be the number one mission to peer through the high-density clouds of Jupiter, flying at an altitude of 3,000 miles. According to Scott Bolton, the mission should reveal answers to burning questions about how Solar Systems appear and develop.
Former missions to planets in the Solar System were New Horizons, Cassini, Ulysses, Galileo, the Pioneers or the Voyagers. However, most just flew passed Jupiter, with Juno being the first unmanned mission to specifically examine Jupiter.
Juno has been traveling towards Jupiter ever since August of 2011. Even though Hubble has provided scientists with interesting pictures of this planet, scientists believe the best is yet to come. Recently, the spacecraft entered the planet’s powerful magnetosphere.
To support the Juno Mission, Hubble Telescope will also be pointed towards Jupiter, to gather data and help prevent the spacecraft from crashing on one of the planet’s icy moons, such as Europa. The Europa moon will be next in line for exploration.
Jupiter is the largest planet in our System. It is best known for the colorful storms and the mysterious light displays. Juno will also provide scientists with an answer on what causes these beautiful auroras. These auroras form when high-energy particles collide with the planet’s gassy atmosphere, around the magnetic poles.
Juno will be entering Jupiter’s atmosphere on the Fourth of July. The unmanned spacecraft is now approaching Jupiter, and it should provide us with answers about the Solar System’s evolution.
Image Source –Wikipedia