Wednesday March 20, 2019

NASA’s Juno spacecraft to make its Fifth flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious Cloud Tops

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Jupiter, Source: NASA

Washington, March 26, 2017: NASA said its Juno spacecraft will make its fifth flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on Monday.

At the time of closest approach, Juno will be about 4,400 km above the planet’s cloud tops, moving at a speed of about 57.8 km per second relative to the gas-giant planet.

All of Juno’s eight science instruments will be on and collecting data during the flyby.

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“This will be our fourth science pass — the fifth close flyby of Jupiter of the mission — and we are excited to see what new discoveries Juno will reveal,” said Scott Bolton, Principal Investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, US.

“Every time we get near Jupiter’s cloud tops, we learn new insights that help us understand this amazing giant planet,” Bolton said in a statement.

Launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Juno arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops.

During these flybys, Juno probes beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

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The Juno science team continues to analyse returns from previous flybys. Scientists have discovered that Jupiter’s magnetic fields are more complicated than originally thought, and that the belts and zones that give the planet’s cloud tops their distinctive look extend deep into the its interior.

Observations of the energetic particles that create the incandescent auroras suggest a complicated current system involving charged material lofted from volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io.

Peer-reviewed papers with more in-depth science results from Juno’s first flybys are expected to be published within the next few months, NASA said. (IANS)

Next Story

“It Is A More Rugged Surface Than We Predicted,” NASA’s Plan to Scoop Up Dirt from Asteroid Hits Complication

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on another asteroid in February, also on a mission to collect material. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission.

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NASA
This artist's rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. VOA

NASA’s plan to scoop up dirt and gravel from an asteroid has hit a snag, but scientists say they can overcome it.

The asteroid Bennu was thought to have wide, open areas suitable for the task. But a recently arrived spacecraft revealed the asteroid is covered with boulders and there don’t seem to be any big, flat spots that could be used to grab samples.

In a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature, scientists say they plan to take a closer look at a few smaller areas that might work. They said sampling from those spots poses “a substantial challenge.”

“But I am confident this team is up to that substantial challenge,” the project’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

The spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, is scheduled to descend close to the surface in the summer of 2020. It will extend a robot arm to pick up the sample, which will be returned to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft began orbiting Bennu at the end of last year, after spending two years chasing down the space rock.

FILE - This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu.
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. VOA

When the mission was planned, scientists were aiming to take dirt and gravel from an area measuring at least 55 yards (50 meters) in diameter that was free of boulders or steep slopes, which would pose a hazard.

“It is a more rugged surface than we predicted,” said Lauretta, of the University of Arizona in Tucson and one of the paper’s authors. But he said he believed a sample could still be collected.

NASA project manager Rich Burns said a spot will be chosen this summer and the setback won’t delay the sampling.

Patrick Taylor, who studies asteroids at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston but didn’t participate in the spacecraft mission, noted in a telephone interview that the spacecraft was evidently maneuvering more accurately and precisely than had been expected.

“That gives me confidence they will be able to attempt a sample acquisition,” he said.

NASA
NASA project manager Rich Burns said a spot will be chosen this summer and the setback won’t delay the sampling. VOA

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Bennu is 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) from Earth. It’s estimated to be just over 1,600 feet (500 meters) across and is the smallest celestial body ever orbited by a spacecraft.

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on another asteroid in February, also on a mission to collect material. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission. (VOA)