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Western Slope Skies - NASA’s Juno at Jupiter


Have you seen Jupiter this week, shining brightly in the southeast after
sunset? This month is a great time to view Jupiter, because this 86,000 mile-
wide, giant planet is visible nearly all night long. And Jupiter is relatively nearby
now, “only” about 370 million miles from Earth. With binoculars we can resolve
Jupiter’s disk and four of its largest moons. With small telescopes, we can see
cloud belts and even a giant storm in Jupiter’s atmosphere, called the Great Red
Spot. But even the most capable telescopes haven’t been able to solve some of
Jupiter’s greatest mysteries, like its composition, internal structure, and how the
Giant Planet formed.
Since 2016, NASA’s Juno mission has been orbiting Jupiter on a quest of
discovery. Juno’s major goals are mapping Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields
and studying Jupiter’s atmosphere, including its composition and such
phenomena as storms, wind patterns, auroras, and lightning. Juno travels in a
highly elongated, polar orbit about Jupiter. This orbit allows Juno to collect
unprecedented data on Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields and to image
Jupiter’s poles, which are never seen well from Earth. At its closest, Juno skims
just 2600 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops.
Juno has already made many discoveries.

 Jupiter’s high-velocity winds, which can exceed 300 miles per hour,

extend far deeper than previously known, to atmospheric depths of almost

2000 miles.

 Juno’s camera has discovered 8 giant storm systems around Jupiter’s
north pole and 5 around its south pole.

 Jupiter’s core is diffuse and grades into an overlying, lower density mantle.

 Jupiter’s magnetic field is asymmetric and complex. This may result from
Jupiter’s interior structure.

 Auroras near Jupiter’s poles are greatly enhanced by charged particles
from Jupiter’s volcanic moon, Io.

 Juno has recorded thousands of lightning strikes on Jupiter. Juno
discovered that lightning on Jupiter is more common near the poles, unlike
Earth, where lightning is more common at lower latitudes.
NASA has extended the Juno mission until year 2025. Juno scientists are
continuing to map Jupiter’s interior structure, its global water abundance, and
explore 3 of Jupiter’s largest moons. From these data, we may learn how Jupiter
formed and has changed over billions of years.

You’ve been listening to “Western Slope Skies”, produced by the Black
Canyon Astronomical Society and KVNF Community Radio. I’m Art Trevena.

Some web links for Juno at Jupiter