Have you ever looked at the sky through a telescope? Just over 400 years ago, an Italian named Galileo Galilei had the opportunity to use a new invention called “rising glass” while sitting on his balcony late at night. He watched for ships to enter the harbour, but when none were there, he turned the glass towards the night sky instead. When he looked at Jupiter, he was amazed. He noticed that there were four other “moonlets” on either side of the planet. Since then, many people have studied the sky with optical aids and wondered what they saw.
Because Galileo’s discoveries changed the way science thought the solar system worked and he did such a good job with his studies, NASA planned a space mission to explore Jupiter and the four Galilean moons and the sent to spend many years in orbit around the gas giant and its companions.
En route to Jupiter, Juno needed a little help from Earth to give it a push using Earth’s gravity to swing Juno around the Earth. When that happened, hundreds, if not thousands, of ham radio operators and their families and students messaged, all at once, to say “HI” to Juno.
After the spacecraft launched, it made contact with Earth scientists via the Goldstone Tracking Station in California or other satellite receivers placed at particular locations around the Earth. Messages are sent, scientists study the messages and find the answers to their burning questions. For Juno, the burning questions are: How is Jupiter like Earth? How did the solar system form? Does Jupiter have a core?
For just over two years, Juno orbited Jupiter’s poles collecting data on Jupiter’s mass and using special tools to learn answers to burning questions. At the end of this time, Juno was to be summoned to dive into Jupiter’s atmosphere to be crushed like an aluminum can, but due to the amazing discoveries and the success of the mission, it was extended until 2025.
This mission was an incredible success, and the information from the last six years of the Juno mission has thrilled the scientists who use this information. The planet itself is a surreal work of art of swirling clouds and rugged explosions of color creating an ever-changing kaleidoscope of patterns that delight all who see them. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/juno
Get up early and get outside and look east before dawn to see Jupiter for yourself. Until next week, KLU.