NASA’s Juno spacecraft is about to reach the farthest point in its orbit of Jupiter on Sunday, after five years of being launched to study the science of the biggest planet in the Solar System, with a mass two-and-a-half times of all the other planets combined. Known as “apojove,” the orbit is about 8.1 million km away from Jupiter.
Known as “apojove,” the orbit is about 8.1 million km away from Jupiter. Beyond this point the gravitational pull of solar system’s largest planet on Juno will result in the spacecraft plummet back toward it for another pass, said NASA on Friday.
Juno’s Principal Investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Scott Bolton said that they had been focussed on reaching Jupiter, and now that they have done it, they will be focussing on bringing “dozens of flybys.”
After being launched on August 5, 2011, Juno went through a looping path around the inner solar system to establish an Earth flyby and was flung by the spinning probe towards Jupiter. Juno arrived at Jupiter on July 4 and is currently going through the first of two long orbits before beginning its science mission.
The craft’s scientific instruments were turned off when Juno was penetrating the orbit in order to to simplify the operations for a flawless maneuver that allowed Jupiter’s gravity to get a hold of Juno into the first of two capture orbits. After the capture of orbits, Juno will fire up its engine once last time to shorten its orbital period to 14 days before it begins its mission.
On August 27 Juno is said to finish its first lap around Jupiter. During this time, Juno will go past Jupiter at a mere 4,200 km above the cloud tops.
Rick Nybakken, Project Manager of Juno at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California said that the instruments are fully functional and the health of the spacecraft is excellent. It seems to be perfectly ready to have a close look at the planet.
With its powerful range instruments, Juno will probe into Jupiter’s deep structure, atmospheric circulation and the physics of its high-energy magnetic environment.
Juno’s mission is important for reasons more than one. For the first time, scientists will be able to get an insight into the other Solar Systems. Once the data starts coming in, scientists will also be able to recalibrate standards to get more accurate results.