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NASA’s Juno Probe Closes in on Jupiter

After five years of travel, Juno will finally make its approach to Jupiter sooner than you think. NASA’s Juno probe is set to enter Jupiter’s Orbit on July 4 to get an extraordinary first look at our solar system’s largest planet. It will be the second spacecraft in history to orbit Jupiter.

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photo from: gizmag

Juno’s Quest to Jupiter

Upon arrival, it’s set to autonomously fire its engine for 35 minutes before starting its 20-month journey around Jupiter’s orbit. Over the course of 20 months, Juno will have orbited Jupiter for a total of 37 times. The probe is set to get as close as 3,100 feet above the gas giant’s clouds.

Once Juno reaches Jupiter it will have traveled 1.74 billion mi (2.8 billion km). The distance is so far from Earth that the radio signal will take 48 minutes to reach Earth, reports GizMag. NASA officials will hope to gain information about Jupiter’s origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Details on whether Jupiter’s core is solid or not and what Jupiter’s magnetic field is like are one of the many few questions hoped to be answered.

Artist's impression of juno over the jovian pole(credit: nasa)
Artist’s impression of Juno over the Jovian pole(Credit: NASA)

Where Juno Got Its Name

The probe got its name after the ancient Roman goddess and wife of Jupiter. Juno was lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base on August 5, 2011. After launching atop an Atlas V Booster, it still needed a little more power. The spacecraft had to perform a flyby maneuver of Earth on October 9, 2013. In order to pick up extra speed, it passed within 347 miles of Earth and accelerated speed at 25 miles per second.

Juno Already Makes History

The probe has already made record-breaking strides. The four-ton spacecraft is the first outer planet probe equipped with three 30-ft long solar arrays. The 18,696 individual solar cells on the probe help to make the most of the solar power it’s given on its journey. It’s the first solar panel to have traveled this far from the Sun. NASA says that the plutonium shortage that’s stalking up the American Space Program and advances in solar cell technology are reasons for the solar paneled technology on Juno.

NASA says that Juno is in excellent shape, reports GizMag. Its behavior is normal as engineers continue to evaluate the spacecraft’s route and send instructions if the course needs any alterations. Because of the unpredictable journey and significant distance from Earth, Juno is also programmed to evaluate and compensate for any malfunctions that may occur during the journey.

If You’re Interested In Learning More

A few days before the spacecraft fires its main engines to enter Jupiter’s orbit, Digital Trends reports that there will be a short documentary, Destination: Jupiter, that will shed a light on the science and technology behind NASA’s mission to Jupiter.

“The mission has the potential to illuminate some of the biggest mysteries about Jupiter and the formation of our solar system,” CuriosityStream’s executive producer, Noah Morowitz, who helped lead the Destination: Jupiter project told Digital Trends.

The documentary will be available to stream on CuriosityStream for users and those who sign up for the 30-day free trial.

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