Get ready for the next year or so, because you are going to be hearing a lot more new stuff about Jupiter. NASA’s Juno spacecraft will do its first science flyby of the gas giant. And in the process, Juno will sight its poles like never before.Juno flying over Jupiter.
Juno entered the orbit around Jupiter in this July. It is the first spacecraft to do so since NASA’s Galileo in year 1995. To keep itself harmless from Jupiter’s radiation, though, Juno is in a wide extensive orbit around the planet. At it is furthest; it is up to 3 million km (2 million miles) away. Two days ago, it has flied just
4,200 km ( 2,500 miles) above the clouds of Jupiter. It is the closest approach to Jupiter so far. When Juno first entered the orbit, its eight science equipments were shut down. But this time around, all eight equipments will be on, as well as JunoCam. This camera will take high-resolution images of Jupiter and, for the first time, will get complete images of Jupiter’s north and south poles. We have already seen Jupiter’s polar region before, thanks to the Cassini spacecraft, but those sights were somewhat obscured because Cassini observed the pole from an angle.
Steve Levin, Juno project researcher from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California,said in a statement, "No other spacecraft has ever orbited Jupiter this closely, or over the poles in this fashion. This is our first opportunity and there are bound to be surprises. We need to take our time to make sure our conclusions are correct."
The flyby is taken place around 8.51am EDT (1.51pm BST) this Saturday, although images will not be sent home straight away. A NASA spokesman told IFLScience we could expect the first images to be on the loose on Thursday, September 1. This is the first of 36 flybys of Jupiter scheduled for Juno up till the end of its mission in February 2018, and it is just the foundation for some of the interesting science we can imagine from Jupiter.
Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, US, said in the statement "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."