NASA - JUNO Mission logo.
June 30, 2016
NASA's Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft has entered the planet's magnetosphere, where the movement of particles in space is controlled by what's going on inside Jupiter.
"We've just crossed the boundary into Jupiter's home turf," said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. "We're closing in fast on the planet itself and already gaining valuable data."
Data Recorded as Juno Crossed Jovian Bow Shock
Video above: This chart presents data the Waves investigation on NASA's Juno spacecraft recorded as the spacecraft crossed the bow shock just outside of Jupiter's magnetosphere on July 24, 2016. Audio accompanies the animation, with volume and pitch correlated to the amplitude and frequency of the recorded waves. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/Univ. of Iowa.
Juno is on course to swing into orbit around Jupiter on July 4. Science instruments on board detected changes in the particles and fields around the spacecraft as it passed from an environment dominated by the interplanetary solar wind into Jupiter's magnetosphere. Data from Juno's Waves investigation, presented as audio stream and color animation, indicate the spacecraft's crossing of the bow shock just outside the magnetosphere on June 24 and the transit into the lower density of the Jovian magnetosphere on July 25.
Infographic: Juno, Built to Withstand Intense Radiation Environments
Infographic above: Juno has been headed for Jupiter since 2011 to study the gas giant’s atmosphere, aurora, gravity and magnetic field. This infographic illustrates the radiation environments Juno has traveled through on its journey near Earth and in interplanetary space. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
"The bow shock is analogous to a sonic boom," said William Kurth of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, lead co-investigator for the Waves investigation. "The solar wind blows past all the planets at a speed of about a million miles per hour, and where it hits an obstacle, there's all this turbulence."
The obstacle is Jupiter's magnetosphere, which is the largest structure in the solar system.
Data Recorded as Juno Entered Magnetosphere
Video above: This chart presents data that the Waves investigation on NASA's Juno spacecraft recorded as the spacecraft entered Jupiter's magnetosphere on July 25, 2016, while approaching Jupiter. Audio accompanies the animation, with volume and pitch correlated to the amplitude and frequency of the recorded waves. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/Univ. of Iowa.
"If Jupiter's magnetosphere glowed in visible light, it would be twice the size of the full moon as seen from Earth," Kurth said. And that's the shorter dimension of the teardrop-shaped structure; the dimension extending outward behind Jupiter has a length about five times the distance between Earth and the sun.
Out in the solar wind a few days ago, Juno was speeding through an environment that has about 16 particles per cubic inch (one per cubic centimeter). Once it crossed into the magnetosphere, the density was about a hundredfold less. The density is expected to climb again, inside the magnetosphere, as the spacecraft gets closer to Jupiter itself. The motions of these particles traveling under the control of Jupiter's magnetic field will be one type of evidence Juno examines for clues about Jupiter's deep interior.
Image above: NASA's Juno spacecraft obtained this color view on June 28, 2016, at a distance of 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) from Jupiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.
While this transition from the solar wind into the magnetosphere was predicted to occur at some point in time, the structure of the boundary between those two regions proved to be unexpectedly complex, with different instruments reporting unusual signatures both before and after the nominal crossing.
"This unusual boundary structure will itself be the subject of scientific investigation," said Barry Mauk of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, who is the instrument lead for the Jupiter Energetic-Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) on Juno.
Image above: This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for Principal Investigator Bolton. Juno is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Caltech, in Pasadena, manages JPL for NASA.
More information on the Juno mission is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/juno
The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:
Images (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/Laurie Cantillo/Tony Greicius/JPL/DC Agle.