New Delhi: After completing a five year journey, Nasa’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on Monday, and attempt to join its orbit. On arrival, Jupiter’s gravity will pull in Juno until the spacecraft reaches a speed over 250,000 kmph with respect to Earth—making it one of the fastest human-made objects ever.
On Monday, Juno will attempt to get inserted into the orbit using a 35-minute burn of its main engine to slow the spacecraft by about 542 meters per second so it can be captured by the gas giant’s orbit. Once in Jupiter’s orbit, the spacecraft will orbit it 37 times across 20 months, approaching 5,000 km above the cloud tops. This is the first time a spacecraft will orbit the poles of Jupiter, which would help provide many more answers about the planet’s composition and origin.
The Juno spacecraft was launched aboard an Atlas V551 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 5 August, 2011. To accomplish its science objectives, Juno will orbit over Jupiter’s poles and pass very close to the planet which will allow it to make the kind of measurements the mission aims to provide.
“This orbital path carries the spacecraft repeatedly through hazardous radiation belts, while avoiding the most powerful (and hazardous) radiation belts. Jupiter’s radiation belts are analogous to Earth’s Van Allen belts—but far more deadly," Nasa said in a note about the mission.
During the almost one-and-a-half-year of the mission dedicated to science, the spacecraft will attempt close fly by above the planet’s cloud tops every 14 days. Here is what Juno is out to find:
Origin: There are several theories regarding the origin of Jupiter. By finding out the water present in the planet and the maximum possible mass of the planet’s solid core, scientists can zero in on the right theory.
Interior: To gain a deeper understanding of the planet’s interior structure and how material moves within the planet by locating the gravitational and magnetic fields.
Atmosphere: To assess the atmospheric composition, temperature, and cloud opacity.
Magnetosphere: To further explore the three-dimensional structure of Jupiter’s polar magnetosphere and auroras.