Juno: Exploring a gas giant

On July 4, 2016 NASA’s New Frontier spacecraft Juno will enter into its first orbit around the planet Jupiter. Over the following twenty months Juno will complete a total of thirty-seven orbits before being deliberately crashed into the giant’s atmosphere and destroyed.

During these orbits Juno’s instruments will work to complete the work begun by the spacecraft which have preceded it over the last forty plus years.

Quoting NASA:

“Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can also provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.”

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Seeing the light: NASA’s solar powered mission to Jupiter

This month NASA’s JUNO spacecraft became the farthest solar powered spacecraft from the Sun.

Launched in August of 2011, JUNO used a gravity assist from Earth in October 2013 to develop sufficient momentum to glide to Jupiter.

JUNO’s on board power comes from three solar panels:

Quoting NASA:

“Engineers designed Juno with three massive solar panels, each nearly 30 feet long. Combined, they provide Juno with 49.7 m2 of active solar cells. Once it reaches Jupiter, Juno will generate more than 400 watts of power, which may not sound like a lot, but it’s an impressive feat at so great a distance. For comparison, Juno’s solar panels can generate about 14 kilowatts near Earth, enough to power the average American home for a year.”
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