Juno probe to Jupiter scheduled for launch next week
- Jupiter Probe to Explore How Planets Formed
By Irene Klotz
(Discovery News, 7/27/2011)
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United Launch Alliance, a commercial launch services firm owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, next week plans to send NASA's Juno spacecraft on its way to Jupiter. Scientists hope the five-year journey ends with the spinning, solar-powered probe orbiting over Jupiter's poles and passing as close as 3,100 miles above its cloud tops.
From that vantage point, Juno's eight science instruments can determine how much water is in Jupiter, a key measurement needed to determine where the planet formed.
"Possibly the single most important measurement Juno is going to make is going to be the global water content of Jupiter," Juno project scientist Steve Levin, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News.
If the planet formed roughly where it exists today, scientists expect Jupiter would be about nine times richer in water than the sun. If Jupiter formed farther out in the solar system where it's colder, the amount of water might be around three times solar levels. Other models predict Jupiter has about the same abundance of water as the sun.
Juno also will map Jupiter's gravity to look for signs of a solid core, as well as map its magnetic mazes.