by Dr. Ken Kremer
NASA’s solar powered Juno spacecraft was successfully launched towards Jupiteron August 5, 2011 to begin a five year and 1.7 Billion mile voyage to the gas giant.The goal is to unmask the hidden secrets of Jupiter’s genesis and planetary formation lurking deep below the turbulent cloud tops.
Juno’s spectacular lift off occurred at 12:25 p.m. EDT atop the most powerful version of the Atlas V booster rocket from a seaside launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Atlas V is a behemoth, standing 197 feet tall.
I had a magnificent view of Juno’s beautiful blast off from an outstanding vantage point on top of the roof of the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), some 525 feet above ground. Check out my album of launch day photos taken from the VAB roof and pre-launch photos taken direct from the Atlas launch pad.
The crackling roar from the engines grew louder as the fiery exhaust accelerated the stack and reached a maximum some 30 seconds after blast off as the rocket arched over to the east. As the first stage continued to fire, the five solids jettisoned after burnout as planned almost two minutes later.
As Juno sped away into the clear blue sky on a sunny Florida afternoon, the sun was angled just right to cast an eerily dark and hazy shadow from the probe and exhaust plume back to Earth – nearly in a straight line! It was a remarkable sight that I’ve never witnessed before.
Juno carries three giant solar panels, each spanning more than 20 meters (66 feet) in length. They will remain continuously in sunlight from the time they were unfurled through the end of the mission.
Juno is the first solar powered probe to be launched to the outer planets and operate at such a great distance from the sun. Jupiter receives 25 times less sunlight than Earth.
After cruising to Jupiter’s vicinity in July 2016, Juno will fire its main engine to enter an elliptical polar orbit. Juno will scrutinize Jupiter for about one year during 33 orbits lasting 11 days each, that skim to within about 3100 mi of the planets polar cloud tops.
Juno’s advanced suite of nine science instruments will investigate whether Jupiter has a solid planetary core, search for clues to the planets origins, determine the water and oxygen content, measure the interior structure, observe auroras and map the magnetic and gravity fields.
The payload of state of the art science instruments includes a gravity/radio science system, a six wavelength microwave radiometer for atmospheric sounding and composition, a vector magnetometer, plasma and energetic particle detectors, a radio/plasma wave experiment, an ultraviolet imager/spectrometer, and an infrared imager/spectrometer.
The mission will also provide the first detailed glimpse of Jupiter’s poles via a specially designed camera named JunoCam that will snap spectacular close-up color images that will be continually released to the public on a real time basis.
Check my Juno features online at Universe Today and Scientific American starting here:
First Image Captured by NASAs Jupiter bound Juno; Earth – Moon Portrait
Juno Blasts off on Science Trek to Discover Jupiter’s Genesis
Juno Jupiter Orbiter poised at Launch Pad for Aug. 5 Blastoff
Astronomy Outreach by Ken Kremer
Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association (BMAA): Doylestown, PA, Peace Valley Nature Center, , PA, Oct 5, Wed. 8 PM, “7 Years of Mars Rovers (in 3D)” Website: http://www.bma2.org
Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, Nov 8, 8 PM “Atlantis, the End of Americas Shuttle Program and What’s Beyond for NASA”. Website: http://www.princetonastronomy.org/
Washington Crossing State Park: Titusville NJ, Nov 12, Sat, 1 PM. “The Grand Finale of Americas Shuttle Program and What’s Beyond for NASA”. Website: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html
Ken Kremer: Spaceflight magazine & Universe Today
Please contact Ken for more info or science outreach presentations: