NASA’s Juno spacecraft to arrive at Jupiter Monday

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Artist concept of Juno (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

After an almost five-year journey, NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on Monday, July 4.

Once in the red giant’s orbit, the spacecraft will circle Jupiter 37 times over a span of 20 months, skimming to within 3,100 miles above the cloud tops.

This is the first time a spacecraft will orbit the poles of Jupiter, providing new answers to ongoing mysteries about the planet’s core, composition and magnetic fields.

Specifically, Juno will determine how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere. The spacecraft will also look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties. Juno will also map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields. Jupiter’s magnetosphere near the poles will also be studied– especially the auroras and how the planet’s enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.

The Juno mission is the second spacecraft designed under NASA’s New Frontiers Program. The first is the Pluto New Horizons mission, which flew by the dwarf planet in July 2015 after a nine-and-a-half-year flight. The program provides opportunities to carry out several medium-class missions identified as top priority objectives in the Decadal Solar System Exploration Survey, conducted by the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council in Washington.