NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Set for Fifth Jupiter Flyby | tech | Hindustan Times
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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Set for Fifth Jupiter Flyby

NASA’s Juno spacecraft is expected to make a fly-by over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on Monday.

tech Updated: Mar 25, 2017 12:22 IST
This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian “galaxy” of swirling storms.
This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian “galaxy” of swirling storms. (NASA)

NASA’s Juno spacecraft is expected to make its fifth fly-by over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on Monday.

At the time of closest approach (called perijove), Juno will be about 4,400 kms above the planet’s cloud tops, travelling at a speed of about 57.8 kms per second relative to the gas-giant planet. All of Juno’s eight science instruments will be on and collecting data during the fly-by.

“This will be our fourth science pass -- the fifth close fly-by of Jupiter of the mission -- and we are excited to see what new discoveries Juno will reveal,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Every time we get near Jupiter’s cloud tops, we learn new insights that help us understand this amazing giant planet.”

The Juno science team continues to analyze returns from previous fly-bys. Scientists have discovered that Jupiter’s magnetic fields are more complicated than originally thought, and that the belts and zones that give the planet’s cloud tops their distinctive look extend deep into the its interior. Observations of the energetic particles that create the incandescent auroras suggest a complicated current system involving charged material lofted from volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io.

Juno was launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops -- as close as about 4,100 kms. During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California.