Wednesday 21 February 2018

Nasa spacecraft Juno makes closest ever approach to Jupiter in breakthrough mission

Cristina Criddle

A Nasa spacecraft on a mission to Jupiter has made a record-breaking approach to the giant planet, orbiting closer than any man-made object before it.

Juno - which was launched five years ago and has travelled 1.8 billion miles from Earth - soared 2,500 miles above the planet's swirling cloud tops at 130,000 mph.

Unique images, including the highest resolution picture ever obtained from Jupiter's clouds, and a wealth of scientific data will be collected from the approach, mission controllers at the American space agency said.

The spacecraft is believed to have reached its closest point at 1.51pm GMT having entered the planet's orbit on July 4.

Executing an engine burn manoeuvre, Juno placed itself in a ellipse around Jupiter which takes around 53 days to traverse.

Principal investigator Dr Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said:

"This is our first opportunity to really take a close-up look at the king of our solar system and begin to figure out how he works."

It will take some days for the images and information gathered by Juno to be downloaded on Earth. They should include the first detailed pictures of Jupiter's north and south poles

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