Happy birthday, Juno! NASA’s Jupiter probe launched 10 years ago today


NASA’s Jupiter-exploring space probe Juno celebrates 10 years in space today (Aug. 5). 

On Aug. 5, 2011, Juno launched to space from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (formerly known as Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) in Florida. It arrived at Jupiter five years later and has been avidly studying the gas giant and its moons from orbit ever since. 

NASA selected the mission in 2005 and originally planned to launch it in 2009, but it was delayed due to budgetary restrictions. Juno finally lifted off six years after its selection and finally arrived in Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. 

The probe is one of NASA’s three New Frontiers missions (which also include New Horizons and OSIRIS-REx) and is among eight other spacecraft that have visited the Jovian neighborhood. Now, a decade after its launch and five years after arriving at Jupiter, here’s a look at what Juno has accomplished and discovered throughout its mission.

Photos: NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter

An artist’s depiction fo the Juno spacecraft observing Ganymede during the flyby on June 7, 2021. Juno launched to space ten years ago on Aug. 5 2011.  (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Ten years since it launched and five years since arriving at Jupiter, Juno has been hard at work collecting data and observing the planet. NASA sent it to Jupiter to answer questions about the planet’s water, its atmosphere, its magnetic and gravity fields and more. 

In August 2016, just a month after arriving at Jupiter, Juno first discovered that the planet’s well-known bands, the stripes that make it instantly recognizable, actually extend far out into Jupiter’s atmosphere

The probe also gave us the first ever inside-view of Jupiter’s rings and revealed how different auroras on Jupiter are from on Earth. 

Juno also directly detected Jupiter’s internal magnetic field. This was a landmark finding as it was the first time that an internal magnetic field had ever been detected on any planets beyond Earth. Juno also has helped scientists to find and study Jupiter’s “shallow lightning” and “mushballs” (or balls of hail made of melted ammonia-water).

In addition to the craft’s ongoing discoveries and exploration, it has also collected a plethora of incredible images of the Jovian system. In 2017, the probe took a multitude of images of the planet’s iconic Great Red Spot, which gave us here on Earth an incredible, up-close look at something we had seen from far away for so long. 

In 2021, NASA extended Juno’s mission to keep the probe exploring through September 2025, unless the spacecraft stops functioning sooner. This extension will allow the probe to continue to explore not just Jupiter, but the entire Jovan system, which includes the planet along with its rings and many moons (at last count, Jupiter has 79 known moons, 53 of which have been named and four of which are the largest, known as the “Galilean moons.”)

For those looking to celebrate Juno’s decade of space exploration, check out some of the probe’s photos from over the years, or you can even create your own Juno spacecraft using instructions provided by NASA here

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Source: space.com

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