Discovery Guide: Juno Mission to Jupiter

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Jupiter, the largest and most massive of the planets, is a mysterious world covered in a dense swirl of colorful clouds and raging storms. Eight NASA spacecraft have already explored the giant planet and many of its 64 confirmed moons, sending back beautiful images and making new discoveries. Now, NASA's Juno mission, scheduled to launch in August 2011, will for the first time peer below Jupiter's colorful cloud cover. It will strive to understand how Jupiter formed and what role it played in putting together the rest of the solar system.

These fun facts, images and activities are an introduction to just how cool the Juno mission and its target Jupiter really are. Start reading and see what you discover. Or click the links below to go directly to fun facts and activities you want to explore most!

› Cool Things About Jupiter
› Cool Things About the Juno Mission
› Cool Things About the Juno Spacecraft

Cool Things About Jupiter

Jupiter was named after the king of the Roman gods, who you may also know by his Greek name Zeus.

Jupiter is the largest and most massive of all the planets in the solar system. (1,321 Earths could fit inside it!)

The beautifully colored stripes on Jupiter are created by strong winds in its atmosphere. And its most famous feature, The Great Red Spot, is a giant spinning storm that has been observed for more than 300 years.

Jupiter, which similar to our sun is made mostly of the elements hydrogen and helium, has an enormous magnetic field that is nearly 20,000 times as powerful as Earth's. Scientists think that this magnetic field is generated by electrical currents created by Jupiter's fast rotation.

Jupiter has 64 confirmed moons. The four largest moons are called Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, and they were first observed by the astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610! Nearly 400 years later, NASA's Galileo spacecraft studied these mysterious and colorful moons in more detail.

Saturn gets most of the attention for its rings, but Jupiter actually has rings, too. However, there are only three and they are much fainter than those around Saturn. It is believed that Jupiter's rings are formed by dust kicked up from meteoroids smashing into the planet's four small inner moons.

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› Jupiter Lithograph

Cool Things About the Juno Mission

NASA's Juno spacecraft is set to launch on Aug. 5, 2011 to begin its journey to Jupiter. The mission has what's called a "launch window." This is the time period when the spacecraft needs to launch to get on the right orbit to Jupiter. On Aug. 5, Juno's launch window is between 11:34 a.m. and 12:33 p.m. EDT. If it misses this launch window, it will have until Aug. 26 to keep trying.

Juno will be the ninth NASA mission to study or fly by Jupiter. Past Jupiter observers include the Voyager 1 and 2, Galileo, Cassini-Huygens and New Horizons missions.

The principal goal of NASA's Juno mission is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. The mission will look for a possible solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, observe the planet's auroras and study its composition. Juno will also let us better understand how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system.

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Cool Things About the Juno Spacecraft

The Juno spacecraft will spin through space. Spinning makes the spacecraft more stable and easier to control. Once it arrives at Jupiter in 2016, Juno will orbit, or go around, the planet 33 times - spinning the whole way!

The main body of Juno is attached to three solar arrays, which are giant panels that look something like propellers and combined are about equal in size to a backyard swimming pool. Together with 2,821 pounds of fuel and 1,658 pounds of oxidizer, the spacecraft will weigh 7,992 pounds total at launch.

Juno is mostly powered by three solar arrays, giant panels that use energy from the sun to keep the spacecraft "charged." When Juno is blocked from the sun, it will get its power from two batteries onboard the spacecraft. Juno is the first spacecraft designed to operate on solar power this far from the sun. To generate enough power so far away, Juno's three solar arrays need to be especially large - 256 square feet each!

There are nine instruments on board the Juno spacecraft. The instruments will study Jupiter's gravitational and magnetic fields, peer beneath Jupiter's cloud tops, observe the planet's auroras and snap color photos. Scientists can then use this data to learn more about Jupiter's atmosphere, composition and origin.

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