News / Science & Technology

NASA's Juno to Study Jupiter's Recipe

NASA's Juno spacecraft passes in front of Jupiter in this artist's depiction
NASA's Juno spacecraft passes in front of Jupiter in this artist's depiction

NASA will launch a spacecraft toward Jupiter next month with the goal of learning more about the massive planet and, in doing so, learn more about the way our own planet was formed.  The Juno mission is set to liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center on August 5.

As far as planets go, Jupiter is impressive in terms of scale and age. 

"Jupiter probably formed first," Scott Bolton, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Texas, explained. "It's the largest of all the planets.  In fact, it's got more material in it than all the rest of the solar system combined.  If I took everything in the solar system, it could all fit inside Jupiter.  And, in fact, Jupiter is probably more than twice as massive as the rest of the solar system put together."

Those points alone could make researchers want to send a spacecraft beyond Mars and the asteroid belt to the fifth planet from the sun.  But there is an even more compelling reason.  

Bolton says that after the Sun formed, Jupiter got what he calls "the majority of the leftovers."

"We want to know that ingredient list.  What we're really after is discovering the recipe for making planets, and we're back at the first step of making sure we have all the ingredients in that recipe," said the scientist.

So NASA is sending the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter to suss out those ingredients and to answer some key questions about the way Jupiter - and the solar system - evolved.  

Bolton is the principal investigator in the $1.1 billion Juno mission.  The goal is to study Jupiter's magnetic and gravity fields, as well as the composition of the planet's core and its atmosphere.  

Like any cook following a recipe can tell you, it is important to know how much water goes into the mix. "We want to know how much water is inside Jupiter, which represents how much oxygen.  Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe and in the Sun, so it's a big missing piece if we don't understand it," said Bolton.    

He told reporters at a mission preview briefing Wednesday that water is a varying factor in many theories about the way planets formed.  He said by knowing the amount of water in Jupiter's planetary recipe, scientists can rule out some existing theories of planetary evolution.

Technicians lower NASA's Juno spacecraft onto a fueling stand at Astrotech's Hazardous Processing Facility in Titusville, Florida, June 27, 2011
Technicians lower NASA's Juno spacecraft onto a fueling stand at Astrotech's Hazardous Processing Facility in Titusville, Florida, June 27, 2011

Bolton says Juno is energy efficient and it pushes the boundaries of solar power.  The spacecraft will be further from the Sun than any solar-powered mission before it.  There is 25-times less sunlight near Jupiter than there is here on Earth.  Once it is near Jupiter in 2016, Juno will be generating about 400 watts of power, which is not enough to run a hairdryer.    

To make the most of the Sun, Juno has three giant solar rays.  The craft will essentially cartwheel through space for five years, until it is about 5,000 kilometers above Jupiter's cloud tops.  Bolton says Juno will dip down below the planet's radiation belts, which he says are among the most hazardous spots in the solar system.  

The craft's electronics will be inside a vault to protect them. "We're basically an armored tank going to Jupiter," said the scientist.

The Italian Space Agency, as well as partners in Belgium, France and Denmark, contributed components to the Juno craft and instruments.  

Juno is set to orbit Jupiter for one year, starting in July 2016.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid