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Astronomy

Jupiter and Its Moons

posted: 07/05/16
by: Eileen Marable
Jupiter and Moons
Jupiter and Its Moons
NASA/JPL - Caltech

We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief as the Juno probe successfully sent a tone back to mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory late last night signalling it had achieved optimal orbit around Jupiter. So now we wait with the world to see what data and photos come back from the gas giant.

Why the wait? Juno had to switch off its instrumentation to avoid any errors during the insertion into orbit, so we don't know what things looked like down on the planet while the craft amped up its rotation and executed the burn that slowed it down enough so Jupiter's gravity could assist in putting it into the polar orbit desired for the best collection of data. The next step was turning Juno back towards the sun so the 18,698 individual solar cells could get back to work powering the craft.

The scientific collection phase doesn't begin until October, after the Juno teams test and calibrate the science instruments. If you're thinking what we're thinking, it would be "that's a LONG wait!!" Everyone wants to know what secrets Jupiter holds. According to NASA's latest mission briefing however, Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno had this to say:

"Our official science collection phase begins in October, but we've figured out a way to collect data a lot earlier than that," said Bolton. "Which when you're talking about the single biggest planetary body in the solar system is a really good thing. There is a lot to see and do here."

That is a spectacular tease and we can't wait to see what "hacks" Bolton may be talking about. In the meantime, we actually DO have some amazing time-lapse footage from Juno. The craft took a series of images that show its approach to Jupiter and its four Galilean moons, and NASA released the video for us to enjoy.



Even this approach footage tells a story. Many have noted that the super-sized Jupiter and its moons look like its own mini solar system. While the group is NOT a solar system, learning how Jupiter was formed and what its core holds WILL tell us about how our actual solar system was formed. Could the formation of Jupiter - believed to be the oldest planet - and its moons be a mini-blueprint for the grouping of planets around our sun? It's only conjecture until Juno begins to probe under the stormy surface.

If you want to know more about Juno and Jupiter, be sure to watch Mission Jupiter tonight at 9p. You'll have a front row seat as the mission and craft come together, being built to withstand the harshest elements. You'll also meet the scientists and engineers putting it all on the line to send a solar craft over 1.7 billion miles. Here's a peek:

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Mission Jupiter Promo
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