NASA has done it. After 5 long years of traveling millions of miles, the Juno spacecraft has arrived at Jupiter.

Juno is a spacecraft that when fully opened is about the size of a basketball court has been traveling towards its destination, to go where no craft has gone before: into the atmosphere of Jupiter.

Jupiter. The largest planet in our solar system, is what is known as a gas giant, meaning it is primarily composed of gasses such as hydrogen and helium, similar to our sun.

 


However, we really have no idea what is in those clouds, and that is the purpose of Juno: to uncover the secrets that lie beneath the clouds of Jupiter. The Juno spacecraft will orbit the planet at an extremely close range and enter the atmosphere of Jupiter while collecting data and sending that data back to Earth for processing, helping us to understand the nature of our solar system.

This mission is fraught with danger, as the radiation levels are unbelievably high, around 20 million rads. For context, The Hiroshima bomb emitted only 10,300 rads, so this would be like being exposed to almost 2,000 Hiroshima bombs!

 

The probe was due to arrive on July 4th, and NASA eagerly awaited confirmation which came at 11:53 PM Eastern Time.

Why Juno?

Juno stands for JUpiter Near-polar Orbiter, but the name is also a long running joke. Jupiter is the Roman name for Zeus, and Juno was his wife. The moons of Jupiter are named after Zeus’ mistresses, and according to Roman mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around him to hide his affairs, however Juno was able to see through the clouds and glimpse at the true nature of her husband. So Juno is a fitting name, as just like the Roman goddess, Juno will peer through the clouds and see what Jupiter is really up to.

Juno's picture of Jupiter (NASA)

The last image taken by Juno’s camera. Courtesy: NASA