The spacecraft is about to get real, real close to Jupiter -- and it could completely unleash a new era in our understanding of this gas giant.
It’s taken years to get where it is today, and now NASA’s Juno spacecraft is about to do something mind-boggling: get within just 4,200 kilometers of the violent cloud tops of the gas giant of Jupiter that it is currently orbiting. It will be NASA’s first close approach to Jupiter since it brought Juno into orbit around the planet back in July, and it will be the closest mankind has ever gotten to Jupiter.
It’s being called a science pass, and Juno will be switching on all its instruments and its camera for the spectacular event. NASA hopes to release images from the approach over the next few days, which would be the highest resolution images ever taken of Jupiter’s clouds and could tell us a lot about the planet.
The pass will take place at 12:51 GTM on Saturday, Aug. 27. Juno will be cooking at 208,000 kilometers per hour when that happens, flying from north to south. Juno first arrived at Jupiter on July 5 after a journey that took five years and sped across 2.8 billion kilometers to the largest planet in our solar system. It is currently on an orbit that takes 53 days to circle Jupiter.
Ever since it arrived, thet eam has been working on checking Juno to make sure it is functioning properly, and now that they are certain that everything is working as it should be, it’s time for the big moment.
“This is the first time we will be close to Jupiter since we entered orbit on July 4,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Back then we turned all our instruments off to focus on the rocket burn to get Juno into orbit around Jupiter. Since then, we have checked Juno from stem to stern and back again. We still have more testing to do, but we are confident that everything is working great, so for this upcoming flyby Juno’s eyes and ears, our science instruments, will all be open.”