NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this month to begin a five-year journey to Jupiter. Juno's detailed study of the largest planet in our solar system will help reveal Jupiter's origin and evolution. As the archetype of giant gas planets, Jupiter can help scientists understand the origin of our solar system and learn more about planetary systems around other stars.
After Juno's launch aboard an Atlas V rocket, mission controllers now await telemetry from the spacecraft indicating it has achieved its proper orientation, and that its massive solar arrays, the biggest on any NASA deep-space probe, have deployed and are generating power. Juno is powered by 650 square feet solar panels and at Jupiter, nearly 500 million miles from the sun, Juno's panels will provide 400 watts of power. In orbit around Earth, these panels would generate 35 times as much power.
Juno will cover the distance from Earth to the moon (about 250,000 miles or 402,236 kilometers) in less than one day's time. It will take another five years and 1,740 million miles (2,800 million kilometers) to complete the journey to Jupiter. The spacecraft will orbit the planet's poles 33 times and use its collection of eight science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant's obscuring cloud cover to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.
Top image: Jupiter Pictures