Category Archives: Jupiter
Last Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, NASA’s Juno spacecraft made a slingshot pass of Earth in order to get the necessary speed boost to reach Jupiter in 2016. As it came within 347 miles of our planet’s surface, passing closest over the southern Atlantic at 3:21 p.m. EDT, it used its JunoCam (developed by the San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems) to take images along the way. This is one of them, and it gives us a spacecraft’s-eye-view of the Atlantic and the eastern coast of Argentina.
Today’s the day! NASA’s Juno* spacecraft, launched back on August 5, 2011 (I should know, I was there) will get a little help from its friends (that’s us!) as it passes by Earth to get a gravitational power-boost on its way to Jupiter.
The exact time of Juno’s closest approach is 3:21 p.m. EDT (12:21 PDT / 19:21 UTC).
But wait, you ask… why would Juno come back to Earth after 2 years to get to Jupiter? Isn’t that losing distance? It might seem that way, but in space travel it’s all about saving energy. Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy) explains:
According to research by NASA astronomers using the next-generation optics of the 10-meter Keck II telescope, Jupiter’s ice-encrusted moon Europa has hydrogen peroxide (aka H2O2) across much of the surface of its leading hemisphere, a compound that could potentially provide energy for life if it has found its way into the moon’s subsurface ocean.
“Europa has the liquid water and elements, and we think that compounds like peroxide might be an important part of the energy requirement,” said JPL scientist Kevin Hand, the paper’s lead author. “The availability of oxidants like peroxide on Earth was a critical part of the rise of complex, multicellular life.”
Do you like space exploration? Do you like comics? Then this is for you.
“Voyager” is a webcomic by LA-based artist Jed McGowan about the Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched from Kennedy Space Center on September 5, 1977. Over the next three years it flew by Jupiter and Saturn, taking unprecedented photos of the giant planets and their moons before embarking on its trip out of the Solar System — a journey that it is still undertaking today, over 35 years later. At this time of this writing, Voyager 1 is 18,499,168,000 km from Earth, a distance that takes light over 34 hours to make.
Jed’s wonderful comic has very few words… but really, very few words are needed. Check it out on his blog here.
Acquired in March 2007, this eerie image from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys’s ultraviolet camera show glowing auroral emissions, always present in Jupiter’s polar regions.
The aurora is hundreds of kilometers wide and about 250 kilometers above the planet. It is caused by electrically charged particles striking atoms in the upper atmosphere from above, the same process involved in Earth’s aurorae (except that Jupiter’s magnetic field is orders of magnitude more powerful than Earth’s!)
Jupiter is our solar system’s resident behemoth. It’s an enormous planet that has more mass than all the others combined, not to mention the largest gravitational and magnetic influence in the solar system (besides the Sun, of coourse.) It’s no wonder that it also has the most moons in orbit around it than any of the other planets as well… at last count 64 known natural satellites!
Oh wait, make that 66.
New research on Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa indicates the presence of a subsurface lake buried beneath frozen mounds of huge jumbled chunks of ice. While it has long been believed that Europa’s ice lies atop a deep underground ocean, these new findings support the possibility of large pockets of liquid water being much closer to the moon’s surface — as well as energy from the Sun — and ultimately boosting the possibility that Europa could harbor life.
“Now we see evidence that it’s a thick ice shell that can mix vigorously, and new evidence for giant shallow lakes. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable.”
– Britney Schmidt, Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas at Austin