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Juno Reaches Jupiter

Io passing in front of Jupiter as captured by the Juno spacecraft

By Dr. Lisa Will, Resident Astronomer at the Fleet Science Center

After a five year voyage, NASA’s Juno mission finally reached Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Not only is Juno the first solar-powered spacecraft to study Jupiter, it’s the farthest solar-powered spacecraft from Earth. It’s the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo in 1995 to 2003, and it’s also the first mission designed to operate deep within Jupiter’s powerful radiation belts. For this reason, Juno’s most sensitive scientific instruments are shielded in a titanium vault.

The Juno mission has several scientific goals, such as the exploration of Jupiter’s magnetosphere, determining Jupiter’s interior structure, characterizing the atmospheric composition and dynamics of Jupiter, mapping its gravitational field and—most importantly—determining Jupiter’s water abundance to help constrain hypotheses relating to the origin and early history of Jupiter and the solar system.

Starting in late August 2016, JunoCam, built by Malin Space Sciences Systems here in San Diego, will take the highest-resolution images ever seen of Jupiter, including the first images to the planet’s polar regions. Astronomers and fans of astronomy everywhere are eager to see more!

Wishing you clear skies!

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