NASA’s space probe, Juno—named after the Roman goddess who was the wife of Jupiter—entered the orbit of Jupiter after a five-year ride across 2.8 billion kilometres. A signal from over 860 million kilometres that took 48 minutes to reach Houston confirmed the entry. What Juno will do is to look through Jupiter’s cloud socked atmosphere and map the largest planet in the solar system—it is double the size of all the other planets combined in the solar system and is 11 times the size of Earth.
Among the questions that Juno hopes to answer include: How was Jupiter formed? Is there water on the planet? Is there a solid core to the planet that is classified as a gas giant? To ensure that Jupiter’s intense radiation does not affect it, Juno’s most sensitive instruments are encased in a 400-pound titanium vault. Over 32 polar orbits that last 14 days each, Juno will come within 4,000 kilometres of Jupiter’s cloud cover. From late-August, when its cameras are switched on, Juno will send images and other information for 20 months before it finally crashes into the giant planet. Juno was preceded in 1989 by Galileo that circled Jupiter for a decade. Hopefully, the $1.1-billion mission would help scientists understand much more about Jupiter, which would unravel more about the solar system too.