Juno Completes Fifth Jupiter Flyby

Posted March 30, 2017

According to NASA, all of Juno's science instruments and the spacecraft's JunoCam were on during the flyby, collecting data that is now being returned to Earth.

The flyby was the first performed by Juno since NASA managers chose to keep the craft in its current orbit, scrapping plans to ratchet down into a tighter orbit that would take it by Jupiter once every two weeks.

NASA Juno probe's close encounters with Jupiter take place only once in every 53 days as the spacecraft is in a highly elliptical orbit around the planet.

Scott Bolton, the principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, stated that every time the spaceship approaches Jupiter's cloud tops, scientists can observe and find out more data which helps them develop a better understanding of this planet.

Part of Jupiter's 'string of pearls.' Juno captured this image with its JunoCam instrument on March 27, 2017.

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During the first encounter, Juno's instruments were deactivated, having as a sole objective the make-or-break engine burst. During these flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and explore the swirling clouds that form Jupiter's colorful, trademark atmosphere.

This new image, processed by amateur astronomer Roman Tkachenko, shows Jupiter's north pole in all its stormy glory.

. Since then, the probe has made several new discoveries about the planet's composition and cloud structure as well as its magnificent auroras and magnetic fields.

Jupiter's polar region. Juno acquired this JunoCam image on March 27, 2017.

Juno is the second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, after the nuclear powered Galileo orbiter, which orbited from 1995 to 2003. It also slows Juno's exposure to harmful radiation, a known threat engineers have identified as most likely to eventually end the mission.

NASA planned to bring Juno into a closer orbit around Jupiter with a maneuver that would have brought the time it takes to circle the planet to 14 days, but a problem with two helium valves forced the space agency to scrap those plans in February. After completing its mission, Juno will be intentionally deorbited into Jupiter's atmosphere. Exactly what internal processes drive these storms is something the Juno mission team hopes to discover in the months ahead. It arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.