U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that its Juno spacecraft accomplished a close flyby over Jupiter’s churning atmosphere this week, successfully completing its 10th science orbit.
The closest approach was on Feb. 7. At the time of perijove, the point in Juno’s orbit when it is closest to the planet’s center, the spacecraft was about 3,500 kilometers above the planet’s cloud tops, according to NASA.
This flyby was a gravity science orientation pass.
During orbits that highlight gravity experiments, Juno is in an Earth-pointed orientation that allows both the X-band and Ka-Band transmitter to downlink data in real-time to one of the antennas of NASA’s Deep Space Network in Goldstone in the western U.S. state of California.
All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were in operation during the flyby, collecting data that is now being returned to Earth.
Juno’s name comes from Roman mythology. The mythical god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature.
The spacecraft was launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the southern U.S. state of Florida. It has been orbiting Jupiter since July 4, 2016, and made its first close flyby of the red spot about a year later. Juno’s 9th science pass was in December, 2017.
During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops. During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.