The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Juno spacecraft has entered the orbit around Jupiter without getting decimated by the planet’s intense magnetic field and radiation. The spacecraft was launched on August 5, 2011 and since then it has travelled 2.8 billion km. It precisely passed through a spot that was originally mapped out.
The diameter of the Juno is 11.5ft and is not the first spacecraft to enter into orbit around Jupiter. But unlike its predecessor, the Galileo spacecraft that explored the planet between 1995 and 2003, Juno will study in detail with the help of the array of nine scientific instruments that it carries on board. Galileo could probe in the planet’s atmosphere; however Juno is able to see below the dense cloud cover of Jupiter.
Juno can reach as close as 5,000km from the cloud tops and its camera Junocam is able to see through the clouds. Junocam can take close-up photos of the poles and other points of interest. The mission intends to unearth below-mentioned facts about the planet including:
- To understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter
- To uncover the source of its intense magnetic field
- To find out if the planet, like earth, has a solid rocky core
- To observe the auroras
- To measure water and ammonia in deep atmosphere
By the end of the week all the nine instruments will be turned on but the first full set of observations will not take place before the end of August when the spacecraft reaches close to Jupiter on its first orbit. Juno will orbit the planet from pole-to-pole which will reduce the amount of radiation exposure, but eventually the orbit will shift owing to Jupiter’s intense gravitational field, making the spacecraft pass through intense regions of radiation.
Although the spacecraft has been shielded by a titanium vault, the radiation from Jupiter will gradually but certainly compromise the instruments by the time it winds up its mission in February 2018. But before this comes off, scientists hope to amass enough information to understand how the giant planet was formed some 4.5 billion years ago, and of the origins of the solar system.
The nature of its core and the amount of water it contains will reveal the mysteries surrounding the genesis of the planet. After orbiting the planet 37 times and returning invaluable scientific information, Juno will burn in Jupiter’s atmosphere in early 2018 as the Galileo spacecraft did.
In an endeavor to uncover the mysteries of nature, NASA has launched several spacecrafts in past as well and its relentless efforts to unveil the mysteries of nature is really praiseworthy. Mysteries of universe will continue to perplex mankind and we will continue exploring universe until we get satisfactory answers to all our quires.