NASA’s five-year trip to Jupiter is finally complete, as the titanium-shielded Juno probe has reached orbit around the giant planet.
In 2014, Comet 67P was our celebrity celestial body after the ESA sent a probe, and helper, to bring science to a whole new level. 2015 came along and we needed something bigger and better, with New Horizons’ nine-year pursuit of Pluto finally coming to a conclusion.
So, 2016 was an outlier in terms of box-office celebrity for the first six months of the year, but almost as soon as July is upon us we have a new giant of the screen: Jupiter is in focus now that Juno has arrived.
The Juno probe, sent to Jupiter to learn more about what is a truly mysterious giant, gassy planet, is a new breed of spacecraft, built for the radiation-heavy storms that swirl around Jupiter’s atmosphere.
That’s why Juno, with radiation-hardened wiring, sensor shielding and a computer housed in a 400lb titanium vault, is such a special spacecraft.
To celebrate, Google has a Doodle showing NASA scientists cheering Juno’s final moments as it arrives in orbit.
Armed with nine separate science instruments – including JunoCam – Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras, which were highlighted last week.
The mission will hopefully show us how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can also provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.
“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of the 4 July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.”
Expect pictures aplenty to pour in via NASA in the coming months.