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More Juno at Jupiter

July 3, 2016

AUDIO: 3, 2, 1, ignition and liftoff! of the Atlas V with Juno on a trek to Jupiter.

It’s been a long trek for the Juno spacecraft — almost five years and more than 1.7 billion miles. But the journey is almost over — Juno is scheduled to enter orbit around Jupiter tomorrow.

Its instruments will probe Jupiter’s interior, its atmosphere, and its magnetic field. Among other things, those observations should help scientists decide how Jupiter and the other planets took shape.

Scott Bolton is Juno’s lead scientist:

BOLTON: If we want to go back in time and understand where we came from, and how the planets were made, Jupiter holds this secret, because it’s got most of the leftovers after the Sun formed, and so we want to know that ingredient list. What we’re really after is discovering the recipe for making planets, and we’re back at the first step of making sure we have all the ingredients in that recipe.

When our solar system was born, the young Sun was surrounded by a disk of gas and dust. One theory says that some of this material coalesced to form small chunks, which merged to form bigger and bigger bodies — the planets. But another says the planets formed from the collapse of unstable zones of material within the disk.

Juno will help determine the composition of Jupiter’s core and measure the contents of its atmosphere. A dense, rocky core and a lot of water and ammonia in the atmosphere would support formation from smaller chunks of material — a major discovery from a trek across the solar system.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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