NASA’s mission to the largest planet in the solar system most recently came close to the object this year.
On Monday, NASA reported a successful pass result. Still staying in the 53-day orbit, the spacecraft will not be able to get closer until February 2, 2017. The moment of closest approach to the tops of the clouds came at 9:04 am Pacific time on Sunday (December 11), when the device was moving at a breakneck speed of 129,000 miles per hour.
The closest approach point in orbit (“perijove”) transferred the solar-powered vehicle about 2580 miles (4150 km) from the atmosphere of the gas giant, allowing the team to collect incredibly accurate measurements of the magnetic field, gravity and chemical composition.
During the passage, 7 out of 8 instruments functioned. NASA expects to receive information in the next few days.
According to Scott Bolton, the principal investigator of Jupiter from the Southwestern Research Institute in San Antonio, this was the first time that a mission was used to study the internal structure of an object by measuring the gravitational field. “We expect gravity to reveal its past and future,” he said before the meeting on Sunday. The only device that failed to work on board was the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), for which a software update was being prepared. It is expected to be operational by the fourth phase in February.
According to NASA, scientists are still weighing in on how the 53-day orbit will affect the operation. In October, it was planned that Juno would shift to a 14-day orbit. But the maneuver was prevented by a glitch in the engine of the fuel valve. We decided not to risk it and extended the previous loop.
Juno will remain in orbit for another 20 months, also collecting information on the formation of other planets.
Although his sensitive electronics are protected by a special case, Juno will not live longer than planned. The gas giant is the most radioactive region in the entire Solar System, filled with ionizing particles, destroying the apparatus’s systems. Before irreparable damage, to protect satellites from biological pollution (terrestrial microbes), Juno will crash into the surface and complete its path.