Bon Voyage Juno

I know the blog’s been heavy on the astronomy news lately, but a lot of interesting things have been happening.  Just in the past couple days, NASA announced evidence that points to flowing water on Mars, there was a massive CME (watch for auroras) and on Friday at 12:25 p.m. EDT the Juno spacecraft headed to Jupiter.  I was going back and forth between writing about the Mars news or Juno.  Mars, Jupiter, Mars, Jupiter.  But the rocket won out in the end!

If all goes well, Juno will arrive at Jupiter in July, 2016 and will orbit the huge planet for a year.  Scientists will be taking a lot of measurements that should tell them how the planet formed.  They’ll be measuring the atmosphere’s water and temperature, studying the magnetosphere, taking pictures and determining the planet’s gravity fields.  One of the most important things they will find out is whether the core is solid or gaseous.

The spacecraft is solar-powered, which was a challenge since Jupiter receives 25 times less sunlight than we do.  It took advantage of recent solar cell design advances and is powered by three large solar panels.  They are each 9′ by 29′.

Juno will travel 445 million miles at a speed of 9,900 mph to reach Jupiter.  The spacecraft is aptly named Juno because in mythology the god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his misdeeds.  His goddess wife Juno was able to part the clouds and reveal the truth.  I can’t wait to see what Juno reveals about the largest planet in our solar system.

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