Science

Juno performs short-haul flights from Europe

Because the Juno spacecraft makes a detailed method to Europa, it’s anticipated to supply useful science and noteworthy pictures for NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission.

On Thursday, September 29 at 2:36 a.m. PDT (5:36 a.m. EDT), NASA’s Juno spacecraft will come inside 222 miles (358 kilometers) of the floor of Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa. The solar-powered spacecraft is predicted to seize the highest-resolution pictures ever taken of elements of Europa’s floor, in addition to collect useful knowledge on the Moon’s inside, floor composition and ionosphere, and its interplay with Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

Such info may very well be helpful for future missions, together with the company’s Europa Clipper, which is predicted to land on the icy moon in 2024. “Europa is such an intriguing Jovian moon, it is the main focus of its personal future NASA mission,” mentioned Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Analysis Institute in San Antonio. “We’re excited to supply knowledge that may assist the Europa Clipper crew plan missions and supply new scientific insights into this icy world.”

At its equatorial diameter of 1,940 miles (3,100 kilometers), Europa is about 90% the dimensions of Earth’s Moon. Scientists assume the salty ocean lies beneath a mile-thick crust of ice, elevating questions in regards to the potential situations that would assist life beneath Europa’s floor.

The shut flyby modifications Juno’s trajectory, decreasing the time it takes to orbit Jupiter from 43 days to 38 days. That is the closest a NASA spacecraft has come to Europa since Galileo got here inside 218 miles (351 kilometers) on Jan. 3, 2000. Moreover, this flyby marks the second encounter with the Galilean moon throughout Juno’s prolonged mission. The mission explored Ganymede in June 2021 and plans to make shut by Io in 2023 and 2024. Information assortment will start one hour earlier than closest method, when the spacecraft will likely be 51,820 miles (83,397 kilometers) from Europa.

“The spacecraft and the Moon have a relative velocity of 14.7 miles per second (23.6 kilometers per second), so we’re screeching by fairly quick,” mentioned John Bordi, Juno’s deputy mission supervisor at JPL. “For our deliberate knowledge acquisition to achieve success, all steps should run like clockwork, as shortly after the flyby, the spacecraft must be reorientated to method Jupiter, which is not going to occur till 7 and a half hours later.”

The spacecraft’s full suite of devices and sensors will likely be activated for the Europa rendezvous. Juno’s Jupiter Energetic-Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) and its medium-gain (X-band) radio antenna are accumulating knowledge on Europa’s ionosphere. Its Waves, Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) and Magnetometer (MAG) experiments measure plasma within the lunar wake as Juno research Europa’s interplay with Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

MAG and Waves are additionally in search of potential water columns above Europa’s floor. “We’ve got the fitting gear to do the job, but it surely takes loads of luck to catch a wave,” Bolton mentioned. “We have got to be in the fitting place on the proper time, but when we’re that fortunate, it is undoubtedly going to be a house run.”

Out and in

Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR) probes Europa’s water-ice crust, acquiring knowledge on its composition and temperature. That is the primary time such knowledge has been collected to review the lunar icy shell.

As well as, the mission expects to take 4 visible-light pictures of the moon through the flyby with JunoCam (a public engagement digital camera). Juno’s science crew will examine these with pictures from earlier missions, in search of modifications in Europa’s floor options that will have occurred over the previous 20 years. These seen mild pictures have an anticipated decision of higher than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel.

Though Juno is within the shadow of Europa when it’s closest to the Moon, Jupiter’s ambiance displays sufficient daylight for Juno’s seen mild imagers to gather knowledge. The mission’s stellar digital camera (known as the Stellar Reference Unit) takes a high-resolution black-and-white picture of Europa’s floor, designed to picture star fields and seek for shiny stars with identified places to assist Juno orient itself. In the meantime, the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) is attempting to gather infrared pictures of its floor.

Juno’s close-up views and knowledge from the MWR instrument will inform the Europa Clipper mission, which is able to make almost 50 flybys in 2030 after reaching Europa. The Europa Clipper collects knowledge in regards to the moon’s ambiance, floor and inside, info that scientists use. to raised perceive Europa’s world subsurface ocean, the thickness of its ice crust, and potential rifts that would launch subsurface water into house.

Extra in regards to the mission

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., is main the Juno mission underneath Principal Investigator Scott J. Bolton of the Southwest Analysis Institute in San Antonio. Juno is a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Middle in Huntsville, Alabama, for the company’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. The spacecraft was constructed and is operated by Denver-based Lockheed Martin Area.

Extra details about Juno will be discovered at: https://www.nasa.gov/juno and https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu

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