Humanity Is About to Get Its Closest Ever Look at Jupiter

Juno probe scheduled to enter Jupiter's orbit July 4
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2016 4:57 PM CDT
Humanity Is About to Get Its Closest Ever Look at Jupiter
Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, as seen by the rapidly approaching Juno probe.   (NASA)

Three Lego figures are about to get closer to Jupiter than humanity has ever been. The Legos—representations of Galileo and the Roman gods Jupiter and Juno made out of "spacecraft-grade" aluminum—are aboard NASA's Juno probe, which is scheduled to enter Jupiter's orbit July 4, the New York Times reports. According to ABC News, it's the culmination of a five-year journey covering nearly 2 billion miles. Over the next 20 months, Juno will orbit Jupiter 37 times, getting as close as 3,000 miles above its clouds. It will be the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter in more than a decade and get closer to the gas giant than any probe before it.

Juno, which was launched in August 2011, is approaching Jupiter over its north pole, which is a new angle than previous probes, according to NASA. The probe will slow down by 1,200mph in just 35 minutes to get into Jupiter's orbit. A three-second radio beep, expected at 11:53pm Eastern time on Monday, will let NASA know that's happened. “We’ll be in orbit around Jupiter, and that’ll be really cool,” Juno's project manager tells the Times. The purpose of the $1.1 billion mission is to learn more about the largest planet in the solar system. NASA wants to know if Jupiter has a solid core, how deep its Big Red Spot storm goes, how it was formed, and more. (Read more Jupiter stories.)

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