Juno meets Jupiter

Apart from what you have studied at school, when you look up the internet, you find a striking list of names picked up from mythology which are used for naming celestial bodies and other things related to astronomy. 

Yes, astronomers are nerds and we love our fiction very dearly. Juno or Queen Regina, is the daughter of Saturn and the sibling and wife of Jupiter. Pretty twisted right?
Long story short. Juno is visiting Jupiter and we are all excited. There is so much science on the way that its going to overwhelming. The internet is already going gaga about it. speaking of which we received a cool snap of Jupiter and its four large moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto). Here,  take a peek.

 

Recent photograph sent by the Juno mission

Recent photograph sent by the Juno mission

 

Now, this is just the beginning. Wait for the real deal when Juno gets inserted to an orbit around Jupiter and once it gets locked there, we shall get some amazing pictures. It was launched using an Atlas V rocket just about 5 years back on 5th August 2011. After travelling for millions in of kilometres in Deep dark space, it has to be slowed down by doing rocket manoeuvres else it will skip the correct insertion. Even the slightest mistake can either make it crash into Jupiter, just like the famous Shoemaker-Levy 9 did in July 1994 or miss it totally and then it would be unrecoverable.

 

The instrument which will be used for making this orbital insertion is called retrorocket. Its pretty similar to how Iron man soft lands or stops in mid air. It’s just that it’s the real deal. There is only a limited amount of fuel available for this and the spacecraft has to save some that fuel for making adjustments while it moves around Jupiter. Here is a cool animation which shows the path of a spacecraft over it’s 5 year journey.

 

 

The orbital insertion happens on the 4th of July (how tacky that is) and will be an event which the mission team has waited for a long, long time. This is going to be the first time that any spacecraft is going to go so close to Jupiter. Pioneer 10  was the first spacecraft ever to visit Jupiter (1973) the only spacecraft ever to enter is orbit was Galileo (from 1995 to 2003).

 

NASA has really upped their game this time and they are going much more closer to the planet than before. To express their excitement and to illustrate the importance of the mission, a trailer for the mission was released by NASA. Check it out.

 

 

Jupiter is very fascinating and in the sky it appears as one of the brightest objects. Even in the most light polluted skies, you just can miss it out. When seen through a small telescope, one can easily see the 4 large moons discovered by Galileo and if you step up your game a little bit, you can see its cloud bands and the famous “Great Red Spot”, which, as of  now decreasing in size.

This planet is so large that you can fit all of the solar system inside it (excluding Sun) and there will still be a lot of space left. It’s gravity is so much that it literally didn’t let a planet form. We know it as the Asteroid belt. These little space rocks are very dangerous for earth (so are comets) and they mean business when they approach the Earth. Don’t believe me? Talk to my friend “Velociraptor” and he will give you a clear picture about the fireworks in the sky 65 million years ago. So, Jupiter kinda keeps a tab on these ‘minor’ planets and saves day for Earth.

Jupiter’s gravitation and magnetic fields are so intense that they can cause funny and strange things to happen on its moons. Io has volcanic eruptions and Europa has a near crater less surface due to the huge gravity of Jupiter. On the other hand Callisto glows in dark due to the influence of the magnetic field of Jupiter. Did I forget to mention that Jupiter could have been a star. Only if the Sun wasn’t a bigger bully. You see what I mean here!!

 

The truth of the Hour is that we know so much about this planet and it’s moon that we have realised that we don’t really know anything about it. So the the mission is designed to study the following

 

  1. Measure the abundance of water
  2. Map its gravitational and magnetic field
  3. Study the layers of its atmosphere and composition of the core

 

Because it’s totally made of gas, it’s poles and equator don’t rotate at the same speed. This makes things even more interesting and gives us an insight about how gases and fluids behave in large structures. There are several activities which happen on its surface and there is so much more to learn from the data which we receive once the mission is placed in the orbit successfully.

The mission is planned to stay in orbit around the planet for about a year and we hope that all of this happens without a glitch as there is so much science on the way.

 

 

You can find a press release for the same at the official page hosted by NASA at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press_kits/juno/

Rishabh Jain

I am an Amateur Astronomer with keen interest in Astrophotography and Visual observations.I have experience in science communication and secondary school education in Astronomy. I have reached over 25,000 students which doing the same. I target making education reachable to the masses through the understanding of social and anthropological structures. My interests include long distance travelling, enjoying music and writing poetry.

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1 Response

  1. Kuldeep Singh says:

    Wonderfully compiled and almost every information given. Good job….

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