NASA's Juno spacecraft will arrive at the planet July 4.
As we reported recently, NASA’s June probe has just performed an engine burn as it begins a 51-million-mile journey toward the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. And it could unlock some fascinating mysteries when it arrives.
The solar-powered probe is expected to get there on July 4 after making a second engine burn May 31, Discovery News report. Here’s five amazing facts about this massive planet.
Jupiter has had plenty of visitors. A total of nine spacecraft have been to the gas giant. It all started with Pioneer 10, which launched in 1972, and continued with Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Galileo, Ulysses, Cassini-Huygens, New Horizons, and Juno. Galileo was the first of the spacecraft to actually orbit Jupiter back in 1995, and it discovered that the planet’s moons actually had their own magnetic fields. New Horizons was the latest until Juno, speeding by Jupiter in 2007 on its way to Pluto.
Jupiter is a long, long way from the sun, but its enormous size allows us to see it with the naked eye on some occasions. Jupiter has two and a half times the mass of all the other planets in our solar system combined. The gas giant can reach an apparent magnitude of -2.94, which makes it the third-brightest object in the night sky after the moon and Venus on average.
Another fascinating detail about Jupiter is htat it has the strongest magnetic field in the solar system, 14 times more powerful than Earth’s. Scientists think this may be due to the massive swirling metallic hydrogen deep inside the planet, which speeds up ionized particles from the solar wind to the speed of light, causing an immense amount of radiation to blanket the planet — and also dooming any spacecraft that gets near it.
Did you know that Jupiter has rings? It’s true. Saturn may be known for this, but although Jupiter’s is largely invisible to the human eye, it has them just the same. The main ring around Jupiter is the result of dust left behind from meteors smashing into its four inner moons.
Probably what’s most amazing about Jupiter is its epic storms, which would obliterate anything that happens on Earth in terms of violence. While the storms have similarities to those on Earth since they don’t last a long time, some storms last so long and become so powerful that it can actual alter the color of Jupiter’s belt.