NASA has reached Jupiter and made its first and closest flyby Saturday. There is a total of 36 flybys planned for the Juno spacecraft sent to probe into the Solar System’s largest planet.
Juno finally arrived at Jupiter last July 4 after five years. The spacecraft was able to fly through the tops of Jupiter’s clouds at 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) at a speed of 130,000 miles per hour (208,000 kilometers per hour), Space.com reports.
During the flyby, Juno’s instruments were fully functioning for the first time since its mission launched. However, it will take a while for Juno’s data and images to make it back, and to the public.
Scott Bolton, primary investigator of Juno and based at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said,
We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak.
He added, “It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us.”
JunoCam, the spacecraft’s visible-light camera, is what scientists will receive high-resolution photos and other data from. These images are expected to provide the nearest and most detailed looks at Jupiter’s atmosphere, according to NASA officials.
Bolton added that this is something completely new, and that, “We are in an orbit nobody has ever been in before.”
As of now, Juno continues to collect information on the giant planet’s atmosphere, magnetic fields, weather and history, sending its data back to Earth for scientists to interpret. It will complete its mission in 2018, after which it will drop to its end in Jupiter’s atmosphere while still recording data.
NASA says the expected accumulation of information and images from Juno will be enough to give scientists a better idea of what Jupiter is like, and also provide a broader understanding on far-off worlds and other distant planets.