The orbiter designed to study gas giants has traveled more than 510 million miles and has observed three of Jupiter’s four largest moons up close.

When is NASA’s Juno spacecraft scheduled to pass by Io and Jupiter?

On Tuesday, May 16, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will pass by Io, Jupiter’s volcanic moon, and then shortly after, it will fly by the gas giant itself. The upcoming flyby of the Jovian moon will be the closest one so far. The spacecraft will be at an altitude of approximately 22,060 miles (35,500 kilometers). The spacecraft, which is powered by solar energy, is currently in its third year of an extended mission to study the interior of Jupiter. Additionally, it will investigate the ring system where some of the gas giant’s inner moons are located.

Which Galilean moons have Juno gathered information from during its close encounters?

Juno has conducted 50 flybys of Jupiter and gathered information during close encounters with three of the four Galilean moons, namely Europa, Ganymede, and Io. Europa and Ganymede are icy worlds, while Io is fiery.

Scott Bolton:

Scott Bolton, who is the principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, stated that Io is the most volcanic celestial body known in our solar system. By observing the volcanoes repeatedly over a period of time, we can monitor their variations such as frequency of eruption, intensity of heat and brightness, whether they are connected to a group or not, and any changes in the shape of the lava flow.

What effect does Jupiter’s gravitational pull have on Io?

Io is a celestial body that is slightly bigger than Earth’s moon. It is constantly experiencing turmoil. The largest planet in our solar system exerts a gravitational pull on everything around it, including its two largest moons, Europa and Ganymede. Io experiences continuous stretching and squeezing, which is responsible for the creation of lava seen erupting from its numerous volcanoes.

What is the purpose of the Juno spacecraft and how does JunoCam contribute to the study of Io’s volcanoes?

Juno was created with the purpose of examining Jupiter, but its numerous sensors have also gathered a significant amount of information about the planet’s moons. The spacecraft has several instruments, including JunoCam, JIRAM, SRU, and MWR. These instruments will study Io’s volcanoes and how they interact with Jupiter’s magnetosphere and auroras.

How close will Juno get to Io’s surface during the flybys?

We are now approaching an exciting phase of Juno’s mission as we move closer to Io with each orbit. Bolton stated that the 51st orbit will offer us the best opportunity to observe this heavily damaged moon up close. In July and October, we will have flybys that will bring us closer. These will lead up to twin flyby encounters with Io in December and February. During these encounters, we will fly within 1,500 kilometers of its surface. Each of these flybys is offering stunning glimpses of the volcanic eruptions on this extraordinary moon. The information ought to be impressive.

A period of fifty years spent at Jupiter:

Juno has flown close to Jupiter’s cloud tops during its flybys, reaching a distance of approximately 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). During these flybys, the spacecraft approaches Jupiter from over the north pole and exits over the south. Its instruments are used to study Jupiter’s interior, auroras, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere by probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover. This helps in learning more about the planet’s origins.

How long has the spacecraft Juno been in orbit around Jupiter?

The spacecraft Juno has completed more than 2,505 Earth days in orbit around Jupiter and has traveled over 510 million miles (820 million kilometers). On July 4, 2016, the spacecraft successfully reached Jupiter. The spacecraft had its first science flyby 53 days after its launch. It maintained that same orbital period until it flew by Ganymede on June 7, 2021. This caused its orbital period to decrease to 43 days. On September 29, 2022, the Europa flyby caused a reduction in the orbital period to 38 days. Following the upcoming Io flybys on May 16 and July 31, Juno’s orbital period will remain constant at 32 days.

Matthew Johnson:

Matthew Johnson, the acting project manager of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, stated that Juno is examining several celestial bodies during its extended mission, and Io is one of them. In addition to adjusting our orbit to obtain fresh views of Jupiter and flying at a low altitude over the planet’s dark side, our spacecraft will also navigate through some of Jupiter’s rings to gain insights into their composition and how they were formed.

Eighty moons of Jupiter are yet to be discovered. Fifty-seven of these moons are named by International Astronomical Union (IAU). And the remaining Twenty-three will be detailed in the future.

Ganymede (Moon):

This is the largest moon in the solar system moons. Juno spacecraft also performed close flybys of Ganymede in 2019 and 2021. Juno Cam imager captured Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede during Juno’s mission on June 7, 2021. The images can also show smaller craters about 25 to 30 miles (40 to 50 km) wide. Experts believe that Ganymede’s volcanic activity forms these creators.

During its 24th orbit of Jupiter, the Juno spacecraft performed a distant flyby of Ganymede on December 25, 2019. With this flyby, Juno was able to capture images of the moon’s polar regions. Juno performed a second flyby at a closer distance of about 1000 kilometers. This flyby also provided a gravity assist to reduce Juno’s orbital period from 53 days to 43 days. This encounter provided additional images of the surface.

Europa (Moon):

Of the four Galilean moons, Europa is the smallest one. Europa is the sixth closest moon to Jupiter. Along with the water ice, this moon may be covered by an ocean of water or slushy ice beneath. Thus, Europa might have twice as much water as Earth. Astrobiologist believes that Europa might be habitable. The Juno orbiter flew by Europa at a distance of 352 km (219 mi) in 2022.

Io (Moon):

Io (moon) is the innermost and the most geologically active object in the Solar system because of its 400 active volcanos. Due to volcanic eruption this moon’s surface contains sulfur. This sulfur paints the surface in various quiet shades of yellow, red, white, black, and green.

During Perijove 25 on February 17, 2020, Juno closely approached Io. Juno spacecraft is to fly by Io with altitudes of 1,500 kilometers on December 30, 2023, and February 3, 2024. Io’s volcanoes are caused by hot silicate magma.

Callisto (Moon):

Galileo Galilei, an Italian astronomer, physicist, and engineer, discovered Callisto in 1610. Covered with impact craters, the surface of Callisto is the oldest and most heavily cratered in the Solar System. Moreover, Callisto is the second-largest moon of Jupiter and the third-largest moon in the Solar System moons. In the 38th Jovian flyby, Juno captured some gorgeous photos of Callisto.

When did the Juno mission end?

The Juno mission was planned to end after completing 37 orbits in February 2018. The spacecraft orbited Jupiter 12 times before the end of July 2018. NASA’s Juno mission was set back to July 2021.

Juno will continue to investigate the giant planet in our solar system until September 2025, or until the spacecraft’s end of life when this will all is over. To avoid a crash with Jupiter’s moons, the spacecraft will perform a controlled deorbit and disintegrate into Jupiter’s atmosphere. However, NASA has said that the spacecraft will never be back on Earth again.


Published by: Sky Headlines