Jupiter is Ready For Its Close-Up

It will seem more appropriate than ever to shoot off a pop-bottle rocket or two on Independence Day this year. On July 4, NASA’s clever Juno spacecraft is expected to arrive at the largest planet in our solar system. As you read this, Juno should be about 300 million miles away from Earth and traveling at 23,000 miles per hour. Juno is so far away from Earth after traveling for five years that it takes a radio signal about 40 minutes to get to the spacecraft.

Juno will be running on solar power — three enormous solar panels slightly less than 10 feet wide by 30 feet long, giving it a wingspan about half that of a Boeing 737. The panels are massive for two reasons. First, Jupiter gets only about 4% of the sunlight Earth does, so more square footage is necessary than for missions closer to the Sun. Second, Jupiter’s intense radiation belts are expected to damage the panels. A lot of redundancy is built in so Juno can skim Jupiter’s cloud tops as low as 3,100 miles above the planet as it orbits it 32 times in a year.

Instrumentation aboard — kept in a titanium vault to reduce intense radiation exposure — includes a device to measure gravity, a microwave radiometer for atmospheric sounding and composition, a magnetometer, a plasma and energetic particle detector, a radio/plasma wave experiment, an ultraviolet spectrometer, an infrared spectrometer and — perhaps most important to the average Earthling — the JunoCam for shots of what always proves to be a highly photogenic giant ball of gases.

Part of the mission will include flyovers of both polar regions. Instruments will map gravity and magnetic fields, study the composition of Jupiter’s atmosphere, detect whether there is a solid core to the planet and study auroras at the poles. Information about Jupiter will give insight into the formation of the solar system and help us better understand a very common type of planet in the universe — the huge gas giant.

Jupiter played the decisive role in how the eight planets of our solar system were formed

Because of its gravity and mass, Jupiter played the decisive role in how the eight planets of our solar system were formed, and it continues to strongly influence the evolution of the solar system, including acting as a sinkhole for large asteroids whizzing into our region.

But the most spectacular part of this mission will be the pictures Juno relays to Earth. The silhouettes of Saturn and its rings we received from Cassini were dramatic, but Jupiter and Earth are the only truly spectacular planets in our solar system.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. To read more in-depth articles on NASA’s latest missions into the unknown, as well as cutting-edge technology updates and how you can benefit from owning the hidden companies driving the biggest advances in high-tech right now, click here to subscribe to Breakthrough Technology Alert written by Stephen Petranek

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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