NASA’s Juno spacecraft is barreling toward a rendezvous with Jupiter after a 2.8 billion kilometre (1.7-billion-mile), five-year trip from planet Earth. The research probe’s main engine will ignite for 35 minutes to maneuver Juno into orbit, and engineers expect to receive confirmation of burn’s start at 0318 GMT Tuesday.
Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study aurorae — stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere — on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. This observation program is supported by measurements made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, shortly to arrive at the gas giant.
In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter as part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet. These observations will help astronomers to better understand the gas giant ahead of Juno’s close encounter next month.
On 4 July, NASA will fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles of the cloud tops of our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter. Over the past two weeks, several milestones occurred that were key to a successful 35-minute burn of its rocket motor, which will place the robotic explorer into a polar orbit around the gas giant.