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Mysteries of Jupiter are revealed by JUNO spacecraft

A model of the Juno spacecraft is seen at a news briefing, held before Juno enters orbit around Jupiter, on Thursday, June 30, 2016 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. The Juno mission launched August 5, 2011 and will arrive at Jupiter July 4, 2016 to orbit the planet for 20 months and collect data on the planetary core, map the magnetic field, and measure the amount of water and ammonia in the atmosphere. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Jupiter is an amazing planet. This massive ball of methane and hydrogen occupies the fifth position as a planet from the Sun.

With a diameter of some 88,000 miles, Jupiter is located about 400 million miles from Earth on average and takes 11 years to make a circuit around the Sun.

Jupiter has well over 69 satellites and four major moons that are larger than our own moon — and one, Ganymede, that is even larger than the planet Mercury.

The name Jupiter says it all: The so called god of gods, Jupiter, or the mighty Zeus, rules the celestial lineup of planets.

Galileo first looked at Jupiter in his crude but functional telescope, on Jan. 7, 1610 and made history with his discovery of the now famous four satellites, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

A new and exciting spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter since July 2016: JUNO.

JUNO, built by Lockheed Martin, was launched towards Jupiter on Aug. 5, 2011 on a non-direct path to the planet.

JUNO is an amazing machine, being solar-powered and equipped with many cameras and sensors to probe the clouds of Jupiter to try and understand the dynamics behind the many weather systems on the planet.

Upon launch, JUNO can produce some 14kW in power from the solar panels, but at the distance of Jupiter those solar panels will only generate some 435 watts of power for critical instruments on board the spacecraft.

With new solar panel technology, this is amazing in itself, as nuclear has been the power source on many of these long distance solar system probes.

Juno has made some amazing discoveries about this giant planet, in the nearly two years that it has been in orbit.

At its closest point to Jupiter, Juno is sailing above the hydrogen, helium and organic clouds at speeds up to 164,000 mph.

What Juno is seeing is most amazing.

As it flys from pole to pole, Juno is imaging some amazing and powerful storms, nothing like we see here on Earth.

The poles of Jupiter appear as a large bluish region which is dotted with massive cyclonic storms, arranged in a large patters around a central core.

Storms at the north pole of Jupiter rotate counterclockwise, while those at the south pole rotate in a clockwise manner.

There is one major 4,000 km-wide storm at the center of each pole, with eight similar sized storms placed around the main system.

Each of these outer storms rotate once in some 30 to 60 hours each — can you imagine the speed and energy of these cyclones?

The winds on these Jovian weather systems extend down, some 3,000 kms into the planet’s atmosphere.

Juno will continue to explore this most amazing planet that shines bright in our early morning March skies.

Look due south, around 4:30 a.m. and you will see Jupiter for yourself, some 450,000,000 million miles from us.

It would still take you over 40 minutes traveling at the speed of light, just to get there. It took Juno some 5 years just to get there and the mission will last a few more years.

Jupiter gets brighter and closer to Earth in May and comes to another great opposition on May 8 — don’t miss it!

Closer to home, here is a link to your March 2018 star chart.

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