Juno Enters Jupiter’s Orbit

On July 4th, Independence Day, many people heated up the BBQ and watched fireworks to celebrate the Declaration of Independence. However, as some people observed the sky for fireworks, others looked even further, to Jupiter.

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. It spins so fast that there is a “gravitational slingshot” causing “rocks, dust, electrons, whole comets, and anything close to it” to be propelled into space, according to the video, Jupiter: into the Unknown, published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The radiation surrounding Jupiter is about twenty million rads, which is about seven times the radiation on Earth. The radiation coupled with the strongest magnetic field in the solar system make it difficult to land objects on Jupiter’s surface.

To avoid the difficulties of landing on Jupiter, NASA developed a spacecraft to orbit the planet. Juno is the name of the spacecraft and it launched on August 5, 2011. It began orbiting Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Lockheed Martin developed Juno and it cost about 1.1 billion USD to manufacture.

Juno enters Jupiter's orbit Courtesy of JPL/NASA
Juno enters Jupiter’s orbit (Courtesy of JPL/NASA)

That seems like a lot of money, however,

This spacecraft has broken an exciting record. The fastest spacecraft was the one going to Pluto [New Horizons Probe]. But now this one [Juno] is the fastest. It is the fastest human thing ever built.  It’s even more remarkable because it is powered by solar energy,” stated Mr. Corrao, a Brooklyn Tech Physics teacher. He continued to explain that Juno’s max speed is 164,700 miles per hour and it’s orbital height is about 2,672 miles.

As Mr. Corrao mentioned, one unique aspect of the Juno space probe is its power source. Usually, satellites orbiting Earth and those working in the Inner Solar System, the region comprising the terrestrial planets and asteroid belt, use solar panels. However, most spacecrafts in the Outer Solar System, the region comprising Jovian planets, use radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Although Juno is orbiting in the Outer Solar System, it uses three wings with solar panels to stabilize and generate power for the spacecraft.

Anjali Singh ’17, a student in the Biological Science Major, stated that “Juno is really amazing because of the information is could discover.” The goal of the Juno Mission is to “Understand origin and evolution of Jupiter, look for solid planetary core, map magnetic fields, measure water and ammonia in deep atmosphere, [and] observe auroras.” Scientists will use the water, ammonia, methane, helium and hydrogen that is inside Jupiter to analyze gain a deeper understanding of Jupiter’s evolution and in the long-term, insight into the evolution of space.

Kiran Javaid ‘17, a student in the Biological Science Major, stated “This really highlights the amazing capabilities of human innovation.” Juno provides information about space and inspiration to students studying fields in the sciences.

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