Juno is set to uncover what Jupiter has been hiding. After a five-year, 1.75-billion-mile voyage, NASA's spacecraft named after a Roman goddess successfully entered into orbit around the largest planet in our solar system Monday night. But for the space agency, getting to Jupiter was not the most nail-biting part of the journey.
The planet's intense radiation and gravitational pull threatened to end the mission before the craft even began its work. However, shortly before midnight Monday night, NASA scientists got the confirmation for which they were holding their collective breath: Juno's 35-minute engine burn worked as hoped and set the craft into orbit around Jupiter.
Over the next 20 months, the basketball court-sized spacecraft will travel around the planet 37 times in egg-shaped orbits, each lasting 14 days. It will be the first spacecraft to peer beneath Jupiter's dense surface atmosphere to see what lies beneath.
“Some of the views that we’re going to have by its visible-light camera will give us close-up views of Jupiter’s clouds, down to a resolution of maybe 15 kilometers, so that’s an incredible view of this planet which is many thousands of kilometers across. So that’ll be dramatic in and of itself,” said Mark Hammergren, an astronomer with the Adler Planetarium and co-founder of Adler's Far Horizons citizen space exploration team. “But even more so, looking at the interior structure of Jupiter: Does it have a rocky core? What does that tell us about Jupiter’s formation?”
Below, watch a time-lapse video of the Galilean satellites in motion around Jupiter captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
Related event: Jumpin' Jupiter
The planetarium's monthly event Adler After Dark features a Jupiter theme in July, with hands-on programs exploring Jupiter's storm systems, magnetic fields and family of moons, plus live music from Rosie and the Rivets.
The event takes place from 6:30-11 p.m. Thursday, July 21 and is limited to ages 21 and up; tickets are available online.
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