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DC Agle 818-393-9011
Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
News release: 2008-222 November 24, 2008
NASA Prepares for New Juno
Called Juno, the mission will be the first in which a spacecraft is placed in a highly elliptical polar orbit around the giant planet to understand its formation, evolution and structure. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our early solar system.
"Jupiter is the archetype of giant planets in our solar system and formed very early, capturing most of the material left after the sun formed," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in
The spacecraft is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas rocket from
"Jupiter is more than 644 million kilometers (400 million miles) from the sun or five times further than Earth,"
The spacecraft will use a camera and nine science instruments to study the hidden world beneath Jupiter's colorful clouds. The suite of science instruments will investigate the existence of an ice-rock core, Jupiter's intense magnetic field, water and ammonia clouds in the deep atmosphere, and explore the planet's aurora borealis.
"In Greek and Roman mythology, Jupiter's wife Juno peered through Jupiter's veil of clouds to watch over her husband's mischief," said Professor Toby Owen, co-investigator at the
Understanding the formation of Jupiter is essential to understanding the processes that led to the development of the rest of our solar system and what the conditions were that led to Earth and humankind. Similar to the sun, Jupiter is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. A small percentage of the planet is composed of heavier elements. However, Jupiter has a larger percentage of these heavier elements than the sun.
"Juno's extraordinarily accurate determination of the gravity and magnetic fields of Jupiter will enable us to understand what is going on deep down in the planet," said Professor Dave Stevenson, co-investigator at the California Institute of Technology in
Deep in Jupiter's atmosphere, under great pressure, hydrogen gas is squeezed into a fluid known as metallic hydrogen. At these great depths, the hydrogen acts like an electrically conducting metal which is believed to be the source of the planet's intense magnetic field. Jupiter also may have a rocky solid core at the center.
"Juno gives us a fantastic opportunity to get a picture of the structure of Jupiter in a way never before possible," said James Green, director of NASA's Planetary Division at NASA Headquarters in
The Juno mission is the second spacecraft designed under NASA's New Frontiers Program. The first was the Pluto New Horizons mission, launched in January 2006 and scheduled to reach Pluto's moon Charon in 2015. The program provides opportunities to carry out several medium-class missions identified as top priority objectives in the Decadal Solar System Exploration Survey, conducted by the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council in
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
For more information about the Juno mission, visit: http://juno.nasa.gov