For a year, the NASA is going to explore the orbit of the biggest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, through Juno, the spacecraft that will enter into orbit on July 4. This Monday, Juno’s speed will be turned down with an engine burn to slow the spacecraft and allow Jupiter’s gravity capture it.

The goal of this mission is, initially, to map the gravitational fields and observe the magnetic fields of Jupiter, as well as discover the internal structure of the planet. To achieve this, the spacecraft must orbit for an entire year (regarding Earth time) making about 34 laps. If the mission is successful, Juno will be the first spacecraft to be this close to the big planet.

An artist’s interpretation of the spacecraft Juno orbiting Jupiter. Credit:

The expedition is a step towards the unknown

Jupiter has been described by NASA officers as a major mystery and dangerous world. The speed of Jupiter’s rotation makes the gravitational field a quite dangerous environment for space objects and everything around the planet. Scott Bolton, the main researcher in the Juno mission, considers Jupiter can transform any space object around it into a weapon since it captures it and then it can throw it away to space.  The magnetic field in Jupiter is between 10 to 12 Gauss, while the Earth is only 0,5.

It is a dangerous expedition as well because there is a lot of radiation, so far, the most radioactive environment discovered in the solar system, so Juno will be exposed to an incredibly significant amount of radiation. However, NASA’s officers are convinced that the spacecraft is ready to receive the energy, and the design of the trajectory considered this problem, so Juno is going to orbit in a way where radiation exposure is diminished, orbiting for the first time in history from pole to pole.

Scientists are confident that Jupiter can be a significant discovery in understanding water, helium,  hydrogen and methane since these components are present in Jupiter’s composition.  Once the spacecraft is orbiting near the poles, scientists expect to observe auroras and detail this process in Jupiter.

Besides the mapping and understanding of chemical substances, this mission will allow scientists, through the 34 laps, discover if the planet has a solid core, finding that can help researchers understand the process of formation of this gas giant planet. The generation of the magnetic field in Jupiter is also one of the main concerns of the research team since previous investigations have considered that it may exist certain similarity to the area on the Earth, even considering the incredible difference in the Gauss scale.

The coverage

NASA published the audio of the spacecraft upon crossing the bow shock just outside of Jupiter’s magnetosphere and upon entering that magnetosphere. The volume and pitch of the data are correlated to the amplitude and frequency of the recorded waves.

Juno will end its life after this mission in February 2018, where it will take a dive into Jupiter’s atmosphere that will destroy the spacecraft, ensuring that the operation does not contaminate with Earth microbes other space objects.

Source: Space