NASA decided to extend the scientific operations of the Juno spacecraft until July 2021, which means that the spacecraft will have an additional 41 months to continue its orbit around Jupiter and achieve their primary scientific goals.
Juno is now in 53-day orbits, instead of 14-day orbits as initially planned, due to a concern about the valves in the spacecraft's fuel system. The longer orbit means it will take more time to gather the necessary scientific data, a JPL statement said.
In April, an independent panel of experts confirmed that Juno is on track to achieve its scientific objectives and is already returning spectacular results. According to experts, the Juno spacecraft and all instruments are healthy and work nominally.
NASA has funded Juno until the fiscal year 2022. Now that operations are expected at the end of the premium in July 2021, activities to close the mission and data analysis are expected. to continue in 2022, said JPL.
"With these funds, Juno's team will not only continue to answer old questions about Jupiter that first fueled this exciting mission, but will also investigate new scientific puzzles motivated by their discoveries so far," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Jupiter. the Directorate of Scientific Missions of NASA in Washington. "With each additional orbit, citizen scientists and scientists will help discover new surprises about this distant world."
More recently, Juno provided the JPL and NASA scientists with data that finally solved a 39-year mystery about Jupiter's rays. The data showed that the origin of the ray in the planet's atmosphere is very similar to that of Earth, but it also explains why Jupiter's lightning occurs mainly at the poles, rather than near the equator in the case of Earth.
"The rays work as radio transmitters, emitting radio waves when they cross the sky," said Shannon Brown, a Juno scientist at JPL. "But until Juno, all the lightning signals recorded by the spacecraft (such as Voyager 1 and 2, Galileo and Cassini) were limited to visual detections or the kilohertz range of the radio spectrum, despite the search for signals in the megahertz range Many theories were offered to explain it, but no theory could have the traction in response. "
When Juno used her Microwave Radiometer Instrument (MWR), she recorded the gaseous giant's emissions over a broad spectrum of frequencies, and detected about 377 lightning bolts as it flew closer to the beam than ever before.
The new document notes that there is a lot of lightning activity near the poles of Jupiter, "which is not true for our planet," Brown said.
Juno will make his 13th scientific flyby over the mysterious clouds of Jupiter on July 16.
Scott Bolton, principal investigator of the Juno mission at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said the extension is great news for planetary exploration and for Juno's team.
"These updated plans for Juno will allow you to complete your primary science goals," Bolton said. JPL manages Juno's mission for Scott Bolton. The mission 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. The Italian Space Agency (ASI) contributed two instruments.
For more information about Juno, visit www.nasa.gov/juno.