D’you Know about Juno?

SCIENCE

While we wait for NASA’s Juno team to release some images, here are some facts about the mission, the spacecraft, and the world it now calls home. (Nat Geo News)

Learn a little about Jupiter’s swirling atmosphere with our fun activity.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

This animation simulates Juno’s view of Jupiter during one of its science orbits, which take two weeks apiece. (The apparent speed of the video slows during closest approach to Jupiter.)

Discussion Ideas

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. Illustration by NASA

This illustration depicts Juno at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth.
Illustration by NASA

 

 

  • How big is Juno? (Get the basics here.)
    • 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) in diameter
    • 9 meters (29.5 feet) by 2.65 meters (8.7 feet) of solar arrays, with 18,698 individual solar cells
    • 3,625 kilograms (7,992 pounds) at launch … but only 1,593 kilograms (3,513 pounds) of spacecraft. The rest of the weight is fuel and oxidizer.
    • 200 kilograms (400 pounds) of weight is Juno’s dazzling electronics vault, protected by the first-of-its-kind radiation shield. This titanium box—about the size of an SUV’s trunk—encloses Juno’s command and data handling unit (the spacecraft’s brain), power and data distribution unit (its heart), and about 20 other electronic assemblies.
    • 256 megabytes of flash memory and 128 megabytes of DRAM local memory. It provides 100 Mbps total instrument throughput.

 

 

  • How fast is Juno?
    • Fast!
      juno speed

 

 

  • How strong is Juno?
    • Strong!
      Juno Infographic_v5

 

 

  • How will Juno study Jupiter?
    • Juno will orbit Jupiter 36 times with one spare (37) orbit. “To avoid the highest levels of radiation in the belts surrounding Jupiter, mission navigators have designed a highly elongated orbit that approaches the gas giant from the north. Flying from north to south, the spacecraft’s point of closest approach above the cloud tops varies with each flyby—coming as close as about 4,200 kilometers (2,600 miles) and as far out as 7,900 kilometers (4,900 miles).”
Illustration by NASA

Illustration by NASA

 

 

Yes, a JEDI is onboard Juno. Illustration by NASA

Yes, a JEDI is onboard Juno. Click to enlarge!
Illustration by NASA

  • What will Juno study?
    • Juno’s primary goal is to improve our understanding of Jupiter’s formation and evolution. The science mission has four components:
      • origins
      • interior
      • atmosphere
      • magnetosphere

 

 

Illustration of Jupiter’s interior and magnetic fields by NASA

Illustration of Jupiter’s interior and magnetic fields by NASA

  • Origins: This objective will help us understand the history of the entire solar system. (Unlike Earth, Jupiter’s giant mass allowed it to hold onto its original composition, providing us with a way of tracing our solar system’s history.)
    • Did Jupiter’s massive planetary core form first and capture all that gas gravitationally? Or did an unstable region inside the solar nebula collapse first, triggering the planet’s formation?
      • Juno will help answer this profound question by measuring the amount of water and ammonia in Jupiter’s atmosphere and help determine if the planet has a core of heavy elements. Assessing Jupiter’s composition will also help scientists understand if Jupiter formed close to its current location or migrated outward as it aged.
  • Interior: This objective will help scientists understand Jupiter’s interior structure and how material moves deep within the planet. Interior data from Juno will help scientists map Jupiter’s gravitational and magnetic fields.

 

 

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is just one of the storms swirling around (and around, and around) the great big planet. Image by NASA

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is just one of the storms swirling around (and around, and around) the great big planet.
Image by NASA

  • Atmosphere: This objective will map variations in atmospheric composition, temperature, cloud opacity and dynamics.

 

 

Jupiter’s auroras are “like the Northern Lights on steroids,” hundreds of times larger and more energetic than auroras on Earth. (This pretty picture is courtesy Hubble, not Juno quite yet.) Photograph courtesy NASA

Jupiter’s auroras are “like the Northern Lights on steroids,” hundreds of times larger and more energetic than auroras on Earth. (This pretty picture is courtesy Hubble, not Juno quite yet.)
Photograph courtesy NASA

  • Magnetosphere: This objective will help scientists characterize and explore the three-dimensional structure of Jupiter’s magnetosphere and auroras.
    • One of our favorite parts of the Juno mission! The magnetosphere studies will investigate a weird fluid known as metallic hydrogen. Under the enormous pressure in Jupiter’s interior, scientists think hydrogen acts like an electrically conducting metal. (Whaaaaat?) Metallic hydrogen is thought to be the source of Jupiter’s intense magnetic field and those big, beautiful auroras.

 

 

  • What are the next steps?
    • Well, the smart folks over at NASA are powering up Juno’s scientific instruments now! (The instruments were off during the critical and dazzling Jupiter Orbit Insertion phase of the mission.)
    • Next up: The Juno team has scheduled a short trajectory correction maneuver on July 13 to refine the orbit around Jupiter.
    • After that: The next time Juno’s orbit carries it close by the planet will be on August 27. The flyby is expected to provide some preliminary science data and, hopefully, pretty pictures.
    • Big Weeks in October: “Now we are focusing on preparing for our fourth and final main engine burn, which will put us in our 14-day science orbit on October 19,” says Rick Nybakken, project manager for Juno from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

 

 

  • How is Juno powered?
    • It’s solar! Let Bill Nye the Science Guy explain it to you in the video above.
      • To help it maneuver around Jupiter, Juno also has powerful thrusters that use hydrazine (nitrogen tetraoxide, a toxic compound often used in rocket fuels).
    • It cartwheels! Spinning makes the spacecraft’s pointing extremely stable and easy to control. At two rotations per minute, the instruments’ fields of view sweep across Jupiter about 240 times in the two hours it takes Juno to fly from pole to pole.

 

 

  • How long is Juno’s mission?
    • Juno launched in August 2011 and will deorbit (more on that later) in February 2018.
    • From its Orlando launch to its final orbit, Juno will have logged an impressive 3,390 million kilometers (2,106 million miles).

 

Do you recognize these folks? Photograph by NASA

Do you recognize these folks?
Photograph by NASA

  • Are there really Legos in space?
    • Yes! Although this is far from the first time Legos have left Earth’s atmosphere, this is definitely the furtherest they’ve traveled!
    • The three Lego figurines are Galileo Galilei, Juno, and Jupiter.

 

 

  • Hey, those awesome Apollo missions brought back Moon rocks. Will Juno bring back some Jovian samples?
    • No! Juno is not coming back. Its “deorbiting” phase is actually the process of the spaceship killing itself by plunging into Jupiter’s swirling storms. “Why destroy spacecraft in such a crushing fashion? NASA wants to eliminate the chances of a defunct spacecraft accidentally crashing on one of the Jovian moons (namely, Europa) and contaminating it with hitchhiking, Earthly microbes.”

 

 

  • Can you help direct the Juno mission?
    • Surprisingly, yes! Over the coming weeks, all citizen scientists with an internet connection can vote on where the JunoCam should point during Juno’s science orbits. This will determine which images of the planet system come back to Earth. Cool.

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Ten Things You Need to Know About the Juno Mission

Nat Geo: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot activity

NASA: Juno Education & Public Outreach resources

NASA: Jupiter Orbit Insertion Press Kit (our favorite resource)

NASA: Juno Mission

NASA: NASAJuno YouTube channel

NASA: JunoCam

2 responses to “D’you Know about Juno?

  1. Pingback: 11 Things We Learned This Week | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: Jupiter Gets its Close-Up | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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