Juno to enter Jupiter orbit July 4

Juno's principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can also provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.

With its suite of science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet's auroras.

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.

Mission Timeline:

  • Launch - August 5, 2011
  • Deep Space Maneuvers - August/September 2012
  • Earth flyby gravity assist - October 2013
  • Jupiter arrival - July 4th 2016
  • Spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for 20 months (37 orbits)
  • End of mission (deorbit into Jupiter) - February 2018

The mission will specifically look to:

  • 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 magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.

The spacecraft:

Juno's scientific payload includes:

  • A gravity/radio science system (Gravity Science)
  • A six-wavelength microwave radiometer for atmospheric sounding and composition (MWR)
  • A vector magnetometer (MAG)
  • Plasma and energetic particle detectors (JADE and JEDI)
  • A radio/plasma wave experiment (Waves)
  • An ultraviolet imager/spectrometer (UVS)
  • An infrared imager/spectrometer (JIRAM)

The spacecraft will also carry a color camera, called JunoCam, to provide the public with the first detailed glimpse of Jupiter's poles.

Fun facts:

  • First discovered in 7th or 8th century BC.
  • Jupiter is named after the king of the Roman gods.
  • Juno is named after Jupiter's wife.
  • Juno stands for "JUpiter Near-polar Orbiter"
  • Mass: 1.90 × 10^27 kg (318 Earths)
  • Orbit Period: 4,333 days (11.9 years)
  • Jupiter has the shortest day of all the planets. It turns on its axis once every 9 hours and 55 minutes.

Comparison to Earth: