How To Watch Juno Enter Jupiter's Orbit & Ensure You Don't Miss A Moment
On July 4, NASA spacecraft Juno will enter Jupiter's orbit, and it'll be a moment you won't want to miss. Nearly five years after being launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug. 5, 2011, Juno is finally close enough to begin its true mission: exploring Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. According to NASA, Juno's overarching goal is to "significantly improve our understanding of the formation, evolution and structure of Jupiter."
The public will be able to view images of Jupiter as they're sent back to NASA via the JunoCam. On the same web platform, outer space enthusiasts and students alike will be able to share images of Jupiter taken from their telescopes, lead discussions, and vote on points of interest for the JunoCam. Chances are, a select handful of journalists, educators, photographers, and students will also be sharing firsthand updates and images from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on social media. In May, NASA selected 25 participants to tour JPL, speak with mission scientists, view test hardware, and report on Juno's entrance into Jupiter's orbit in real time. Other updates will be available on NASA's "Juno Mission" twitter account and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory YouTube account.
The impressive solar-powered spacecraft is able to travel at 4 miles per second, making it the fastest spacecraft of its kind. In addition, it's expected to endure the Gas Giant's intense magnetic waves and radiation long enough to gather video footage of its surface, which is mostly made of hydrogen and helium. Scientists hope that by studying Jupiter, they will be able to better piece together the conditions under which the gas planet originated as well as the process by which water initially formed on Earth. But before the necessary measurements are taken, Juno has to successfully enter Jupiter's atmosphere. To say the least, it's going to be a tricky process. If it makes the slightest mistake, it could be flung out into space by the planet's powerful orbit, remaining there permanently.
And the journey won't end there. After Juno enters orbit, it will spend an additional 107 days in the "capture orbit" to save fuel for the rest of the trip. However, scientists will begin recording observations from the spacecraft as soon as 50 hours after it makes its entry. The mission will come to a close somewhere around October 2017, at which point scientists will intentionally crash Juno into Jupiter's atmosphere to avoid transferring any of its Earthly bacteria to the planet's moons. One moon called Europa even has oceans and is believed to host some form of life. Exposure to Earth's organisms could damage its environment, so Juno will have to take one for the team.