Not long before NASA’s Juno spacecraft reaches Jupiter on its target date of July 4, the public is invited to a free talk “JUNO Mission to Jupiter” with Dr. Jack Connerney, the mission’s deputy principal investigator and head of the magnetometer team. The talk will be held in the Pickford Theater on the third floor of the Madison Building on Thursday, June 23, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The Juno spacecraft launched in 2011 and is the second spacecraft designed under NASA’s New Frontiers Program (the first was the Pluto New Horizons mission). The mission is designed to improve our understanding of the solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter. On July 4, the solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court will fly within 2,900 miles of the cloud tops of our solar system’s largest planet. The specific goals of the Juno mission are to: determine how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which helps determine which planet formation theory is correct (or if new theories are needed); look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties; map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields, revealing the planet’s deep structure; and explore and study Jupiter’s magnetosphere near the planet’s poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter’s northern and southern lights – providing new insights about how the planet’s enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.
A series of 37 planned close approaches during the mission will eclipse the previous record for Jupiter set in 1974 by NASA’s Pioneer 11 spacecraft of 27,000 miles. Getting this close to Jupiter is not without danger each time Juno’s orbit carries it toward the swirling tumult of orange, white, red and brown clouds that cover the gas giant. The source of potential trouble can be found inside Jupiter itself. Well below the Jovian cloud tops is a layer of hydrogen under such incredible pressure it acts as an electrical conductor. Scientists believe that the combination of this metallic hydrogen along with Jupiter’s fast rotation — one day on Jupiter is only 10 hours long — generates a powerful magnetic field that surrounds the planet with electrons, protons and ions traveling at nearly the speed of light. Any spacecraft that enters this field of high-energy particles encounters the harshest radiation environment in the solar system.
For inquiries about this program, contact the Science, Technology & Business Division at 202-707-1192. Individuals requiring accommodations for this event are requested to submit a request at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].