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JUNO spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter. It’ll study the planet like never before

Juno probe will turn around the gas giant for around 20 months, before disintegrating into the atmosphere.

It took 4 years, 11 months and almost three billion kilometres to get there. But on the 4th of July at 20.53 (local time in California), JUNO, acronym for Jupiter Near-polar Orbiter, entered into Jupiter’s orbit.

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An amazing picture of Jupiter’s whirpools © NASA

 

After turning on the motor for 35 minutes to reduce the speed to 542 metres per second (about 1950 kilometres per hour), Juno was captured by the gas-made giant’s gravity and pointed its 18,698 solar cells to the sun.

“Independence Day is always something to celebrate, but today we can add another reason to cheer on top of America’s birthday”, said Charlie Bolden, NASA’s CEO. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before?”

What will JUNO study?

Besides being the pride of the space agency, the mission is fundamental for studying the biggest planet of the solar system. Its main aim is to investigate the origin and evolution of Jupiter. The spacecraft will investigate the hypothetical existence of a hard core, register the intensity of the planet’s magnetic field and measure the amount of water and ammonia in the planet’s deep atmosphere, under the clouds.


A unique mission that will allow scientists to study and understand how gas giants form and which role they had in the formation of the solar system. This knowledge will help us study other solar systems too.

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A scheme explaining what JUNO will do © NASA

JUNO has Italian technology on board

The two Italian instruments on board of the JUNO satellite produced by ASI (the Italian Space Agency) are an example of scientific and technological excellence,” said Barbara Negri of ASI. “The JIRAM instrument (Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper) was designed to study the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter’s aurorae in the near infrared”.

And that’s not all. KaT, the instrument measuring the distance and speed created by Thale Alenia Space, will also have a crucial role. “JUNO is a mission that will make history and in which NASA and ASI teamed up again in search of information to explain the origins of the solar system”, the President of ASI Roberto Battiston stated. “The study of Jupiter is also a major scientific and technological challenge in which Italy takes part with two advanced tools, thanks to INAF and industries including Leonardo Finmeccanica and Thales Alenia Space”.

Now we must wait for the first data to come to Earth.

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