Juno spacecraft to reach Jupiter next year

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An artist’s impression of the Juno probe at Jupiter.
NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft will be arriving in orbit around Jupiter in around 12 months’ time.

Launched in 2011 as part of NASA’s ongoing New Frontiers program, Juno will be attempting to map the gas giant’s gravitational and magnetic fields while also taking the first ever close-up pictures of Jupiter’s polar regions.

Scientists are hopeful that its findings will help them to learn more about Jupiter’s internal structure and evolutionary history as well as whether or not it possesses a solid core.

“We’re already more than 90 percent of the way to Jupiter, in terms of total distance traveled,” said mission principal investigator Scott Bolton. “With a year to go, we’re looking carefully at our plans to make sure we’re ready to make the most of our time once we arrive.”

Once it reaches its destination the probe will be entering in to an elliptical orbit that will at times take it within only a few thousand miles of the planet’s outermost cloud layer.

“We have models that tell us what to expect, but the fact is that Juno is going to be immersed in a strong and variable magnetic field and hazardous radiation, and it will get closer to the planet than any previous orbiting spacecraft,” said Bolton.

“Juno’s experience could be different than what our models predict – that’s part of what makes space exploration so exciting.”