NASA is headed for Jupiter — here’s what we could find

NASA is headed for Jupiter — here’s what we could find

NASA's Juno probe just executed an engine burn that will send it speeding toward the solar system's largest planet.

NASA’s June probe has just performed an engine burn that will send it on a 51-million-mile journey toward the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter.

The solar-powered probe is expected to get there on July 4 after burning 1.3 pounds of fuel to change its speed by 0.7 miles per hour, according to a Discovery News report.

There will be a second engine burn on May 31.

It’s been four and a half years since Juno, which cost the agency $1.1 billion, launched on a mission to map the gravitational and magnetic fields of Jupiter to enable scientists to better understand the evolution of this gas giant. Juno will circle Jupiter 33 times and will come within just 3,100 miles of the cloud tops every 14 days.

Juno could result in a tremendous leap forward in our understanding of the universe. The spacecraft could provide very precise details on the gravity and magnetic field of Jupiter and thus shed light on how our solar system formed, and perhaps how other solar systems formed beyond our neighborhood or even our galaxy. It might even allow us to better know the likelihood of finding life on another planet reasonably close to Earth by estimating just how many life-supporting planets would typically evolve within a solar system.

Juno has set a record for going the farthest of any other solar powered satellite. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, which landed a probe on a comet not long ago, had been the previous record holder at 492 million miles.

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