Tuesday, July 5, 2016
'Welcome to Jupiter': Nasa mission puts Juno in orbit after five-year journey
After a five-year voyage across 1.8bn miles (2.8bn km), Nasa’s Juno spacecraft has reached Jupiter and successfully entered its orbit. Braving intense radiation and a field of space rocks, the probe inched into the orbit of the largest planet in the solar system at 03.18 GMT.
The manoeuvre was extremely complex, with the craft first having to slow down and then turn off its engines to enter Jupiter’s orbit at exactly the right moment.
The 35-minute engine burn, which began at 11:18 p.m. EST, slowed Juno by 1,212 mph, so it could be captured by the planet’s gravitational pull. Juno was traveling 130,000 mph
Juno’s success prompted joy at Nasa’s jet propulsion laboratory, where team members had been watching the probe’s progress with bated breath. “Juno, welcome to Jupiter,” said mission control commentator Jennifer Delavan of Lockheed Martin, which built Juno. In the background, scientists could be seen cheering, clapping and hugging each other.
Speaking at a press conference shortly later, Diane Brown, Juno’s project manager, said “It’s overwhelming.” “The risks that were overcome, it’s amazing. The more you know about the mission the more you know about how tricky it was.” “To know we can go to bed tonight not worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow, is just amazing,” she said.
An aurora at Jupiter’s north pole glows a luminous blue.
Juno’s mission is to peer through Jupiter’s cloud-socked atmosphere and map the interior from a unique vantage point above the poles. Among the lingering questions: How much water exists? Is there a solid core? Why are Jupiter’s southern and northern lights the brightest in the solar system? “What Juno’s about is looking beneath that surface,” Bolton said before the craft’s arrival. “We’ve got to go down and look at what’s inside, see how it’s built, how deep these features go, learn about its real secrets.”
The fifth rock from the sun and the heftiest planet in the solar system, Jupiter is what’s known as a gas giant — a ball of hydrogen and helium — unlike rocky Earth and Mars.
Bristling with instruments, Juno will peer deep beneath Jupiter’s clouds to learn how the planet formed; what drives its brilliant aurorae; and how its complex weather systems produce the giant red spot and the swirling, enigmatic stripes that decorate its outer layers.
The planet formed from an enormous gas cloud 4.5bn years ago under the feeble light of the newborn sun. The material leftover became the rest of the planets, the asteroids and the comets. All would fit easily within the bulk of Jupiter, a planet 11 times wider than Earth and 300 times more massive… Read more: