Mission to Jupiter!

Mission to Jupiter!

Play "JunoQuest" and help the Juno spacecraft explore the mysteries of Jupiter.

Giant Jupiter is one of our favorite planets here at The Space Place. Just ask Dr. Marc. For one thing, it's magnificent. At times it is so big and bright in our night sky that you might imagine it is a friendly alien space ship coming to say hello.

Photographic images of about one-quarter of Jupiter and full Earth side by side, to scale. Earth is tiny.Jupiter is our solar system's largest planet. See how tiny Earth is compared to Jupiter. The raging storm known as the "Great Red Spot" on Jupiter could swallow up the whole Earth.

Jupiter is called a gas giant planet. It is made of mostly hydrogen and helium, the same materials as the Sun. If Jupiter were bigger, could it have become our solar system's second sun? Imagine seeing two Suns in the sky!

There is a lot about Jupiter we don't know. Scientists want to study Jupiter. They want to find clues to how Jupiter formed and has changed over the 4.6 billion years of our solar system's life. That will also help them to understand the formation of our solar system and other planetary systems around other stars.

Juno Will Show Jupiter's True Nature

Artist's rendering of Juno spacecraft, with Jupiter in the background.Juno is a NASA spacecraft to help scientists learn more about Jupiter. Juno launched August 5, 2011, and will arrive at Jupiter in July 2016. The slowly spinning spacecraft will go into a special orbit around Jupiter's poles, instead of around its middle. It will swing far away, then back toward Jupiter, coming as close as 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops. Juno will make 32 orbits of Jupiter over about one year.

During the parts of each orbit when it is closest to Jupiter, Juno will make measurements to find out whether Jupiter has a solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet's auroras.

Play JunoQuest and help Juno to take us a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and what part they play in putting together the rest of the solar system.

article last updated February 27, 2012
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