NASA Probe to Blast Off, Destination: Jupiter

Juno to explore origins of the solar system; liftoff scheduled for 11:34am ET
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2011 8:18 AM CDT
This image provided by NASA shows an Atlas V rocket with NASA's Juno spacecraft payload at Space Launch Complex 41 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Thursday evening Aug. 4, 2011.   (AP Photo/Bill Ingalls/NASA)

(Newser) – Today NASA will launch a spacecraft that they're hoping will pry the secrets of the solar system from Jupiter. Dubbed "Juno" (Jupiter’s wife in Roman mythology, get it?), the probe will take five years to travel to Jupiter, arriving on July 4, 2016, the New York Times reports. It’ll then spend a year orbiting the planet 33 times, gathering information about Jupiter's gravity, magnetic fields, and the amount of water in the atmosphere—observations that should shed light on the solar system’s early days.

“Jupiter holds the history of the solar system,” explains the mission’s chief investigator. Astronomers are pretty sure the solar system formed when a cloud of hydrogen collapsed to form the sun, spinning out leftover disks of flattened matter that turned into planets. But what were those disks made of? Whatever it was, it’s still sitting inside Jupiter—the massive planet’s gravity is too strong for anything to have escaped.

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