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

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More