Science

NASA’s Juno spacecraft reaches halfway to Jupiter

PTI Washington | Updated on August 15, 2013

A computer-generated image depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft, which reached the halfway point on its mission to Jupiter on August 12, 2013. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

View of Juno's position on August 8 from Eyes on the Solar System. Photo: NASA

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has reached halfway to Jupiter, touching a milestone in its five-year voyage to our solar system’s largest planet.

The $1.1 billion Juno mission, which was launched on August 5, 2011, reached halfway to Jupiter on Monday, a NASA statement said.

“Juno’s odometer just clicked over to 9.464 astronomical units,” said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

“The team is looking forward, preparing for the day we enter orbit around the most massive planet in our solar system,” Bolton said.

Astronomical unit (AU) is a unit of measure used by space engineers and scientists when discussing the massive distances involved in the exploration of our solar system and beyond.

An AU is based on the distance between Earth and the Sun and is 149,597,870.7 kilometres long.

The 9.464 astronomical units Juno has already travelled (or still has left to go) is equivalent to 1,415,794,248 kilometres.

Juno was 55.46 million kilometres from Earth when the milestone was reached.

The next milestone in the nearly five-year journey to Jupiter will occur this October, when the spacecraft flies past Earth in search of a little extra speed.

“On October 9, Juno will come within 559 kilometres of Earth,” said the mission’s Project Manager Rick Nybakken of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“The Earth flyby will give Juno a kick in the pants, boosting its velocity by about 7.3 kilometres per second.

“From there, it’s next stop Jupiter,” Nybakken said.

Juno will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Once in orbit around Jupiter, the spacecraft will circle the planet 33 times, from pole to pole, and use its collection of eight science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant’s obscuring cloud cover.

Juno’s science team will learn about Jupiter’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.

Published on August 15, 2013

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