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Juno Heads Back to Jupiter Over The Planet's Clouds

Aug 02, 2016 03:25 AM EDT
This diagram shows the Juno spacecraft's orbits, including its two long, stretched-out capture orbits. The spacecraft's position on July 31 is indicated at left.
Juno is on its way back to Jupiter after reaching the farthest point of the planet's orbit.
(Photo : Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Juno will approach Jupiter, the closest attempt by any other spacecraft, on Aug. 27 but before that, Juno has to complete the Jupiter's orbit. The spacecraft has successfully reached the farthest point of the planet's orbit and is now on its way back to Jupiter.

On July 31, Juno reached the farthest point of Jupiter's orbit "apojoev" at about 5 million miles away and is now on its way back to the planet. It turned back from the farthest point while in sync with the planet's orbit.

On its way back, its equipment are all opened to observe and gather data about the giant gas planet and its environment. On Aug. 27, Juno will complete its first lap of Jupiter and that's when the spacecraft will be nearest to the planet with a distance of only 2,600 miles above the planet's cloud tops. This will give Juno different view and perspective of one of the oldest bodies in the Solar System.

Juno entered Jupiter's orbit on July 4 and it will complete 53.5-day-long orbits, according to IB Times. It took the spacecraft five years to reach its destination planet and it is now ready for science. "For five years we've been focused on getting to Jupiter. Now we're there, and we're concentrating on beginning dozens of flybys of Jupiter to get the science we're after," Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator said in a press release.

Juno will need to complete two "capture orbits", each one taking almost two months to complete. But once Juno is stable and completely in sync with the planet's orbit, it will only take 14 days per orbit, according to Cosmos.

Scientists cannot hide their anticipation because Juno shut off its instruments upon executing the sensitive insertion maneuver and completing a 35-minute engine burn to allow the planet's forces to "capture" the spacecraft. But now that its eyes are wide open for science, scientists cannot wait to receive data gathered from the biggest and harshest planet near Earth.


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