Juno above Jupiter's pole (NASA)On the morning of 5th July 2016, the Juno space probe, which has been travelling through the Solar System since its launch in 2011, will go into orbit around Jupiter. To do so, it must slow down and be captured by the giant planet’s gravity. The braking manoeuvre, called an “orbit insertion burn”, will rely on the probe's rocket engines firing at exactly the right moment and for the correct length of time. If successful, Juno will then orbit Jupiter for the next 20 months collecting data that will help astronomers find out what lies beneath the planet's thick clouds. At times, Juno will fly to within 5000 kilometres (3000 miles) of Jupiter’s cloud tops. But if its engines fail to fire properly, Juno will fly straight past the planet and on into deep space.
The Juno probe was launched on 5th August 2011 and has travelled nearly three billion kilometres to reach Jupiter. It is fitted with a three giant solar panels, which will generate just a few hundred watts of electricity. But, according to Dr Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator, from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, this should be easily enough to power Juno’s instruments over its 20-month life span.
Juno space probe approaches Jupiter (NASA)
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