NASA’s Juno spacecraft just did something incredible

NASA’s Juno spacecraft just did something incredible

Juno entered orbit around Jupiter back in early July in a mission that is truly first of its kind.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft is in orbit around Jupiter after a five-year journey, and scientists were holding their breath recently when the spacecraft made an incredibly close path by Jupiter, coming within just 2,600 miles of the gas giant’s volatile cloud tops.

Juno made its closest pass on Saturday, Aug. 27, and made the first of 36 planned flybys during its mission. Juno arrived at the planet on July 4 and entered orbit in a delicate operation, as researchers worried about how the spacecraft’s systems would hold up in the face of Jupiter’s intense radiation. So far, it appears to be doing fine.

Juno had its scientific instruments up and running for this encounter, the first time it has had to do so in the nearly two months it’s been in orbit around Jupiter. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see the undoubtedly incredible images for some time, researchers said. It will take days to downlink the data, and then even more time than that for researchers to understand the data. Hopefully, we can catch a glimpse of the photos in the next couple weeks.

“Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us.”

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