NASA craft makes closest-ever swing by Jupiter


The Juno probe has completed its five-year journey to Jupiter. The craft will hopefully deliver answers about the planet’s mysterious weather, poles and composition.

NASA’s Juno space probe made history on Saturday by flying closer to Jupiter than any spacecraft has done before. Juno swung about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) away from the solar system’s largest planet, sending back data and images.

“We are in an orbit nobody has ever been in before, and these images give us a whole new perspective on this gas-giant world,” said Scott Bolton, head of the Juno team.

Bolton added that NASA will release its new images within a couple of days.

The Juno mission first came close to Jupiter last month after spending five years on a journey to study the origins of the solar system. The probe’s next objective is to examine the many atmospheric layers of Jupiter and determine its composition and magnetic field.

Juno was also expected to send back important new data about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and its mysterious north and south poles. Scientists also hope to gain new insight into the planet’s strong winds and whether or not the giant is completely gaseous or has a solid core.

The spacecraft will make 35 more close flybys of Jupiter until its main mission comes to an end in February 2018, after which June will go directly into the planet’s atmosphere and self-destruct.

es/kl (AFP, dpa)