Juno set for closest Jupiter pass yet
First high-resolution images of the giant planet are expected by the end of the week.
NASA’s spacecraft Juno will tomorrow make its closest pass of Jupiter on its mission so far, skimming about 4,200 kilometres above the giant planet’s cloud tops.
The spacecraft, on a mission to uncover the secrets of Jupiter’s atmosphere and origins, will travel at 208,000 kilometres per hour with respect to the planet on the approach due to take place at 12:51 UTC on 27 August.
That will mark the end of Juno’s first “capture orbit” that it entered after travelling 2.8 billion kilometres from Earth.
Each of those capture orbits takes 14 days. Thereafter, the spacecraft is expected to make some 35 science orbits of the planet before burning up in the atmosphere.
The data collected is expected to improve our understanding of Jupiter itself along with how the solar system formed.
Juno will have all its scientific instruments working for the first time tomorrow, with the data expected on Earth within days – although interpretation of those data will take longer.
But for those impatient to a get a first high-resolution glimpse of the planet, images from Juno’s visible light camera – JunoCam – should be released to the public in the second half of next week.
“This is our first opportunity to really take a close-up look at the king of our solar system and begin to figure out how he works,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
“Back then we turned all our instruments off to focus on the rocket burn to get Juno into orbit around Jupiter. Since then, we have checked Juno from stem to stern and back again.
"We still have more testing to do, but we are confident that everything is working great, so for this upcoming flyby Juno's eyes and ears, our science instruments, will all be open.”
Juno launched on 5 August 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.