Amazing feat of Nasa's Juno

Amazing feat of Nasa's Juno

The first remarkable thing about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) spacecraft Juno’s trip to Jupiter is that it reached the planet. Jupiter is about 2.8 billion km away from the earth. Juno was launched in August, 2011. It travelled for five years, moved close to the planet at 2,65,000 kmph and precisely reached its orbit in a particular area at particular time. If it missed the area or missed the time by a few seconds it would have gone past the planet or dropped into its fiery atmosphere and burnt itself out. The successful placing of the spacecraft in the orbit from so far is a great technological achievement. Reaching Jupiter is special. It is the king of planets and is so massive that it is bigger than everything else in the solar system, except the sun, put together.  It is the first born planet in the solar system. Its magnetic field and radiation are many thousands of times stronger than those of the earth.

The exploration of Jupiter, which Juno will under-take in the next few months, is important for many reasons. The huge cloud cover over the planet made any understanding of it impossible till now. The Galileo probe, sent by Nasa, went to Jupiter in 1995 and sent some data from there in the next eight years. But Juno will go very close to the cloud cover, make 32 orbits around the planet and try to unravel some of its mysteries which are the earth’s too. Jupiter is expected to have answers to many questions about the solar system, the planets and other objects that make it and about the evolution of life itself on the earth. It is much like a star, has a mini solar system of its own and produces more heat by itself than it gets from the sun. Its moons are even thought to be inhabitable.

Juno will start its experiments in October. It will orbit the planet in areas of relatively low radiation but will be ultimately consumed by the planet’s radiation by February 2018. Before that, it is expected to provide information about whether the planet has a rocky core or not, how much water its atmosphere contains, what the extent of its rocky rings is and how strong its magnetic field is. Scientists say that understanding Jupiter is like learning the recipe of the solar system. That will expand the horizons of our understanding of our past and of our still strange neighbourhood. The technological feat will also lead to more challenging and ambitious efforts in future.

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