Beyond the appeal of its striking appearance, Jupiter holds valuable information about the fundamental processes that formed our solar system. The launch of the Juno mission in August 2011 will begin a five-year journey back to Jupiter to uncover the secrets hidden beneath the planet's thick, colorful clouds.
The name of the mission, Juno, is derived from Greek Mythology.
Juno: A unique spacecraft on a critical mission
When the solar-powered spacecraft reaches its final destination
in 2016, Juno will enter into a low, elliptical orbit circling the planet
from pole to pole. The Juno team has carefully plotted the orbit of
the innovative spacecraft to avoid lethal belts of charged particles
that surround Jupiter much like the less dense Van Allen belts that
encircle the Earth.
Once Juno enters into its orbit, infrared and microwave instruments will begin to measure the thermal radiation emanating from deep within Jupiter's dense atmosphere. These observations will complement previous studies of the planet's composition by assessing the abundance and distribution of water, and therefore oxygen. While filling missing pieces of the puzzle of Jupiter's composition, this data also provides insight into the planet's origins.
Meanwhile, other instruments aboard Juno will gather data about the planet's gravitational field and polar magnetosphere. Scientists can use this information to expand our understanding of the processes that cause Jupiter's spectacular auroras and the baffling internal structure of a world made mainly of hydrogen and helium.
Join the Juno team
By far the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter is essential to unlocking the mysteries of our solar system's formation and early development. The Juno team invites you to participate in the exciting journey back to Jupiter and into our origins.