NASA’s Juno spacecraft is finally back in contact with Earth. It has sent data confirming that it performed the eighth flyby of Jupiter.
NASA launched Juno on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The spacecraft arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.
During the flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter. The spacecraft is studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere.
However, NASA confirmed that the spacecraft made its eighth flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on October 24.
Solar conjunction at Jupiter affected communications during the days prior to and after the flyby. Thus, causing the delay of confirmation by several days.
“All the science collected during the flyby was carried in Juno’s memory until yesterday when Jupiter came out of solar conjunction,” Ed Hirst, Juno’s new project manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said in a statement.
What is the solar conjunction?
Solar conjunction is the period when Earth’s and Jupiter’s orbits take the planets on opposite sides of the sun. During solar conjunction, scientists make no attempts to send new instructions or receive information from Juno. That’s because a spacecraft orbiting Jupiter can’t transmit to Earth without the charged particles the sun emits. Thus, corrupting the probe’s signal.
“All science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating, and the new data are now being transmitted to Earth and being delivered into the hands of our science team,” said Mr. Hirst.
Juno’s next flyby.
Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on Dec. 16.
“There is no more exciting place to be than in orbit around Jupiter and no team I’d rather be with than the Juno team,” said Hirst. “Our spacecraft is in great shape, and the team is looking forward to many more flybys of the solar system’s largest planet.”
NASA scheduled the probe to study Jupiter through 2018, thus, finally diving into the planet’s atmosphere. However, NASA’s officials said they can extend the mission.
Thumbnail Image: NASA