Juno Reached Farthest Point of Jupiter's Orbit

Aug 01, 2016 10:40 PM EDT

NASA's Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter's orbit on July 4. On its way to its nearest approach to the giant gas planet, the spacecraft just reached the farthest point of the planet's orbit.

On July 31, Juno started its way towards Jupiter for the mission to get close to the planet this August. And on the same date, Juno reached the farthest point in Jupiter's orbit called "apojove" about 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) away from the giant gas planet. Like its moons, Jupiter's gravity will pull the spacecraft back into orbit in preparation for the close approach set to take place on August 27 in a proximity of just 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above cloud tops, giving the spacecraft a new perspective.

This is the first major data gathering step for Juno where it is expected to beam back tons of information by studying the planet up close, in a distance that no spacecraft has ever gone before. "We're in an excellent state of health, with the spacecraft and all the instruments fully checked out and ready for our first up-close look at Jupiter," Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager said in a statement.

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But to get there, the Juno spacecraft had to survive a five-year long journey to the planet and a sensitive breaking maneuver called "orbit insertion" where a 35-minute engine burn was done to slow down the spacecraft to allow Jupiter's gravity to pull it in.

Juno will have to finish two long orbits before it reaches the nearest point to the planet that will also mark the official start of its science mission. Before the mission could start, Juno has to finish the first lap around Jupiter that will finish with the spacecraft's closest pass over the planet.

The mission will look into the composition, methane content, magnetic field, atmospheric circulation and other elements and chemistry found in Jupiter. Data from Juno will help scientists understand the formation and evolution of the planet as well as the solar system being one of the oldest bodies within the planetary system.


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