After five years traveling through space to its destination, our Juno spacecraft will arrive in orbit around Jupiter today, July 4, 2016. This video shows a peek of what the spacecraft saw as it closed in on its destination before instruments were turned off. Watch our noon EDT Pre-Orbit Insertion Briefing on NASA Television for more: https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv or http://youtube.com/nasajpl/live.
Jupiter doesn’t orbit the Sun.
The other planets in our solar system are
so much smaller than the Sun that their
centers of mass are deep inside of it.
Jupiter, however, is so huge that it has
the same center of mass as the Sun.
Basically, they both orbit the same point,
which is just above the Sun itself. SourceSource 2Source 3
Galileo lives on Jupiter now. He
discovered Jupiter’s moons back in
1610, but 400 years later, when NASA’s
Juno probe reached its destination in
July 2016, he finally got to ‘visit’ the
planet in the form of a Lego minifigure,
which was molded from solid aluminum
to protect it from radiation. SourceSource 2
The Juno spacecraft has been traveling toward its destination since its launch in 2011, and is set to insert Jupiter’s orbit on July 4. Jupiter is by far the largest planet in the solar system. Humans have been studying it for hundreds of years, yet still many basic questions about the gas world remain.
The primary goal of the Juno spacecraft is to reveal the story of the formation and evolution of the planet Jupiter. Understanding the origin and evolution of Jupiter can provide the knowledge needed to help us understand the origin of our solar system and planetary systems around other stars.
Have We Visited Jupiter Before? Yes! In 1995, our Galileo mission (artist illustration above) made the voyage to Jupiter. One of its jobs was to drop a probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere. The data showed us that the composition was different than scientists thought, indicating that our theories of planetary formation were wrong.
What’s Different About This Visit? The Juno spacecraft will, for the first time, see below Jupiter’s dense clover of clouds. [Bonus Fact: This is why the mission was named after the Roman goddess, who was Jupiter’s wife, and who could also see through the clouds.]
Unlocking Jupiter’s Secrets
Specifically, Juno will…
Determine how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which helps determine which planet formation theory is correct (or if new theories are needed)
Look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties
Map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields, revealing the planet’s deep structure
Explore and study Jupiter’s magnetosphere near the planet’s poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter’s northern and southern lights – providing new insights about how the planet’s enormous
Juno will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system.