On the night of the 4th of July, while Americans were celebrating Independence Day, a handful of people who went to college to get more knowledge, spent their holiday helping the spacecraft Juno go to Jupiter, hopefully not to get more stupider. This mission first started in August of 2011 on everyone’s favorite third planet from the Sun. Juno then travelled for almost 5 years, or the amount of time it would take to watch the movie Juno 27,375 times, to enter into Jupiter’s orbit. Chances are the lego figurine of Galileo aboard the spacecraft knows all of the words to All I Want is You by now.
According to Juno’s project manager, Rick Nybakken, the spacecraft traveled 1.7 billion miles in 5 years and slowed down by 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second) to get within one second for a target that was just tens of kilometers large. Impressive to say the least.
Juno stands at a mere 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) tall and wide, but after it’s solar panels open, it spans about 66 feet (20 meters). That is approximately 11.5 Michael Cera’s long! It is also the furthest any solar powered spacecraft has been from Mother Earth. Juno’s mission will end after completing 37 orbits of Jupiter in February of 2018 when it is planned to burn in the planet’s atmosphere.
Since its discovery by ancient Roman astronomers, people figured out a handful of things about Jupiter. First, it’s massive. It is the biggest planet in our family of 8, by a long shot, and holds about two-thirds of all of the planetary mass in our solar system. Not to mention the 53 confirmed moons that it has, a magnetic field infinitely strong than the Earth’s, and the rings around it. (You aren’t the only single lady in the Solar System, Saturn.)
But beneath that Great Red Spot exterior, what’s really going on down inside, Jup? Enter Juno. Juno’s mission will involve trying to see past that dense cloud layer to understand what’s going at Jupiter's core. Is its surface rocky, as hypothesized, or made of pillows? Can we make a map of Jupiter’s intense magnetic field? How much water and ammonia are in its atmosphere? Most importantly, earthlings want to know the origin and evolution of the potentially oldest planet in our solar system. So, stay tuned! It’s up to Juno to find out!
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