NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Makes Jupiter Orbit After Five Years Traveling Across the Solar System

Juno team still celebrating confirmation of successful insertion into Jupiter orbit

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This computer-generated image depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft firing its Leros-1b main engine. Credits: NASA/JPL

Space news (Space missions to Jupiter: NASA; Juno makes orbit around mighty Jupiter) – 370 million miles (596 million kilometers) from Earth, traveling at around 11 miles per second (17 kilometers per second) relative to the Sol, or 29 miles/second (46 kilometers/s) relative to Earth – 

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft above the north pole of Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL
This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft above the north pole of Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL

It’s a bold, confident step forward into the solar system for NASA and the human journey to the beginning of space and time. After traveling nearly 1.36 billion miles (2.2 billion kilometers) during a journey lasting almost five years, NASA scientists and engineers prepared the Juno spacecraft for a planned 45-minute main engine burn to slow the spacecraft by around 1,200 mph (540 meters per second). At this lesser speed, the spacecraft falls quietly into mighty Jupiter’s gravity well, by entering Jupiter orbital insertion at a more controlled velocity. During this pre-insertion phase mission, specialists in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California altered Juno’s altitude to point its main engine in the right direction for the maneuver. They also increased the spacecraft’s rate of rotation from 2 to 5 revolutions per minute (RPM) to help stabilize it. 

Portrait, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Washington, DC, July 29, 2009. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Portrait, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator, National Aeronautics, and Space Administration (NASA). Washington, DC, July 29, 2009. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

“Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.” 

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This infographic illustrates the radiation environments Juno has traveled through on its journey near Earth and in interplanetary space. Credits: NASA/JPL

At 8:18 p.m. PDT (11:18 p.m. EDT) on Monday, June 4, 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft started its 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine to decrease velocity to allow for a safe Jupiter orbital insertion. 35 minutes later, at 8:53 p.m. PDT (11:53 p.m. EDT), NASA’s Juno team received data from the spacecraft confirming a successful insertion into orbit around mighty Jupiter. A little earlier than expected, but better early, than never at all.  

Description: Scott Bolton, Div. 15, Portrait, man, 1 image Date photographed: 12/7/04 Charge number: 68OH Publication: New Hire/Professional Announcement Contact name: Brenda Decker Photographed by: Larry Walther Department name: Division: (68)
Scott Bolton, principle investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Credits: NASA/JPL 

“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of the 4th of July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.” 

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This is the final view taken by the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft before Juno’s instruments were powered down in preparation for orbit insertion on July 4. Credits: NASA/JPL

After the successful Jupiter orbital insertion, the team turned Juno so its three huge solar arrays, shaped like a windmill, could capture the sun’s rays on 18,698 individual solar cells that give Juno its energy. At an average distance of around 484 million miles (778 million kilometers) from Sol, Jupiter is generally five times further from the sun than Earth, which means the amount of solar energy collected by Juno’s solar array’s about 25 times weaker. At this distance, despite recent advances in solar cell technology, Juno’s solar collectors only provide about 450 watts of power, enough to power four household light bulbs. 

“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team members the mission they are looking for.” 

Next, the team will prepare Juno to conduct the science data collection phase of the mission. They need to do final testing of all spacecraft subsystems, calibrate science instruments, and collect some data to enable the next phase of Juno’s mission to Jupiter.  

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL
This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL

“Our official science collection phase begins in October, but we’ve figured out a way to collect data a lot earlier than that,” said Bolton. “Which when you’re talking about the single biggest planetary body in the solar system is a really good thing. There is a lot to see and do here.” 

The Juno mission’s primary science objective is to uncover clues to the origin and evolution of mighty Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. Now, Juno will turn its suite of nine science instruments to the task of exploring the possible existence of a solid planetary core and mapping the gas giant’s extreme magnetic field. It will also measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere of Jupiter and observe its amazing, stunning auroras. If the mission goes as scripted, human knowledge and understanding of the birth and formation of giant planets will take a huge step forward, and the part Jupiter played in the origin and evolution of the solar system and life on Earth could be partly revealed. The knowledge we gain through our journey to Jupiter can even offer us useful, critical clues to the processes creating some of the bizarre creatures in the Planetary Zoo of Exoplanets.  

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This trio of Junocam views of Earth was taken during Juno’s close flyby on October 9, 2013. The leftmost view shows the southern two-thirds of South America. As the spacecraft moved eastward during its flyby, the Chilean coast and the snowy line of the Andes Mountains recedes toward the limb at left on the planet. The third image includes a view of the Argentinean coastline with reflections, or specular highlights, off the Rio Negro north of Golfo San Matias, as well as cloud formations over Antarctica. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Watch JunoCam

Join the conversation and help determine future targets for JunoCam, a visible light camera on board Juno. Right now, people around the world are talking about and voting on the images the spacecraft will take of Jupiter during its mission. They’re uploading personal images and data NASA mission specialists can use to help plan the days ahead for the Juno mission. We suggest you read the submission guidelines before submitting images or data to the official Juno website.  

Here people can read the latest news concerning Juno, watch a series of videos with announcer Bill Nye (The Science Guy) explaining the dangers and interesting things you need to know about Jupiter and its moon system and meet the team behind our journey to the biggest planet in the solar system. You can follow the story of the Juno mission from start to finish and find out about future plans for our visit. 

Watch this movie of Juno’s approach to Jupiter and moons between June 12 – 29. It starts with the spacecraft about 10 million miles from Jupiter and ends 3 million miles away from the gas giant.  

For millennium Jupiter was but a wandering star until Galileo observed transiting bodies change position with respect to the suspect star over the course of a few nights. Through these observations, he realized these bodies were moons orbiting a distant planet. He came to the revelation the Earth isn’t the center of the universe and forever changed the way we view our place in the cosmos.  

Join the voyage of NASA and its scientists, engineers and brave astronauts here

Learn more about Jupiter and its moon system

Join Juno as it prepares to explore Jupiter here

Explore NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Read and learn about magnetic lines of force emanating from supermassive black holes.

Travel across the Tarantula Nebula on a runaway star.

Read about the star navigating skills of Polynesian islanders who colonized the isolated islands of the Pacific Ocean.

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WISE Infrared All-Sky Survey Reveals Millions of Supermassive Black Hole Candidates

Plus nearly a thousand extremely bright, dusty objects nicknamed hot DOGS 

With its all-sky infrared survey, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has identified millions of quasar candidates. Quasars are supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions times greater than our sun. The black holes "feed" off surrounding gas and dust, pulling the material onto them. As the material falls in on the black hole, it becomes extremely hot and extremely bright. This image zooms in on one small region of the WISE sky, covering an area about three times larger than the moon. The WISE quasar candidates are highlighted with yellow circles. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
With its all-sky infrared survey, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has identified millions of quasar candidates. Quasars are supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions times greater than our sun. The black holes “feed” off surrounding gas and dust, pulling the material onto them. As the material falls in on the black hole, it becomes extremely hot and extremely bright. This image zooms in on one small region of the WISE sky, covering an area about three times larger than the moon. The WISE quasar candidates are highlighted with yellow circles.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Space news (All-sky surveys: infrared; candidate supermassive black holes and dust-obscured galaxies) – The visible universe – 

Astronomers working with data provided by an infrared survey of the visible sky conducted by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have identified millions of new candidates for the quasar section in the Galaxy Zoo. All-sky images taken by WISE revealed around 2.5 million candidate supermassive black holes actively feeding on material, some over 10 billion light-years away. They also pinpointed nearly a 1,000 very bright, extremely dusty objects nicknamed hot DOGS believed to be among the brightest galaxies discovered during the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

The entire sky as mapped by WISE at infrared wavelengths is shown here, with an artist's concept of the WISE satellite superimposed. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
The entire sky as mapped by WISE at infrared wavelengths is shown here, with an artist’s concept of the WISE satellite superimposed.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

“These dusty, cataclysmically forming galaxies are so rare WISE had to scan the entire sky to find them,” said Peter Eisenhardt, lead author of the paper on the first of these bright, dusty galaxies, and project scientist for WISE at JPL. “We are also seeing evidence that these record setters may have formed their black holes before the bulk of their stars. The ‘eggs’ may have come before the ‘chickens.” 

Dr. Hashima Hasan is the James Webb Space Telescope Program Scientist and the Education and Public Outreach Lead for Astrophysics. Credits: NASA/JWST
Dr. Hashima Hasan is the James Webb Space Telescope Program Scientist and the Education and Public Outreach Lead for Astrophysics. Credits: NASA/JWST

“WISE has exposed a menagerie of hidden objects,” said Hashima Hasan, WISE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’ve found an asteroid dancing ahead of Earth in its orbit, the coldest star-like orbs known and now, supermassive black holes and galaxies hiding behind cloaks of dust.” 

This artist's concept illustrates a quasar, or feeding black hole, similar to APM 08279+5255, where astronomers discovered huge amounts of water vapor. Gas and dust likely form a torus around the central black hole, with clouds of charged gas above and below. X-rays emerge from the very central region, while thermal infrared radiation is emitted by dust throughout most of the torus. While this figure shows the quasar's torus approximately edge-on, the torus around APM 08279+5255 is likely positioned face-on from our point of view. Image credit: NASA/ESA
This artist’s concept illustrates a quasar, or feeding black hole, similar to APM 08279+5255, where astronomers discovered huge amounts of water vapor. Gas and dust likely form a torus around the central black hole, with clouds of charged gas above and below. X-rays emerge from the very central region, while thermal infrared radiation is emitted by dust throughout most of the torus. While this figure shows the quasar’s torus approximately edge-on, the torus around APM 08279+5255 is likely positioned face-on from our point of view.
Image credit: NASA/ESA

Astronomers detected Trojan asteroid TK7 in October 2010 in images of the sky taken by NASA’s WISE, before verifying its existence on optical images taken by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. Additional study and computer modeling indicate Earth’s small dance partner should stay in a safe orbit for the next 10,000 years at least.  

This zoomed-in view of a portion of the all-sky survey from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer shows a collection of quasar candidates. Quasars are supermassive black holes feeding off gas and dust. The larger yellow circles show WISE quasar candidates; the smaller blue-green circles show quasars found in the previous visible-light Sloan Digital Sky Survey. WISE finds three times as many quasar candidates with a comparable brightness. Thanks to WISE's infrared vision, it picks up previously known bright quasars as well as large numbers of hidden, dusty quasars. The circular inset images, obtained with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, show how the new WISE quasars differ from the quasars identified in visible light. Quasars selected in visible light look like stars, as shown in the lower right inset; the cross is a diffraction pattern caused by the bright point source of light. Quasars found by WISE often have more complex appearances, as seen in the Hubble inset near the center. This is because the quasars found by WISE are often obscured or hidden by dust, which blocks their visible light and allows the fainter host galaxy surrounding the black hole to be seen. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/STScI
This zoomed-in view of a portion of the all-sky survey from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer shows a collection of quasar candidates. Quasars are supermassive black holes feeding off gas and dust. The larger yellow circles show WISE quasar candidates; the smaller blue-green circles show quasars found in the previous visible-light Sloan Digital Sky Survey. WISE finds three times as many quasar candidates with a comparable brightness. Thanks to WISE’s infrared vision, it picks up previously known bright quasars as well as large numbers of hidden, dusty quasars.
The circular inset images, obtained with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, show how the new WISE quasars differ from the quasars identified in visible light. Quasars selected in visible light look like stars, as shown in the lower right inset; the cross is a diffraction pattern caused by the bright point source of light. Quasars found by WISE often have more complex appearances, as seen in the Hubble inset near the center. This is because the quasars found by WISE are often obscured or hidden by dust, which blocks their visible light and allows the fainter host galaxy surrounding the black hole to be seen.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/STScI

In March 2014 astronomers studying infrared images taken by WISE announced the discovery of around 3,500 new stars lying within 500 light-years of Earth. At the same time, they searched the data looking for evidence of Planet X, or Nemesis, the mythical planet some believe to exist somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto. Scientists analyzed millions of infrared images taken by WISE out to a distance well beyond the orbit of our former ninth planet. They didn’t detect any objects the size of a planet out to a distance of around 25,000 times the distance between the Earth and Sol. Many times beyond the orbit of Pluto. No Planet X was found. 

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has identified about 1,000 extremely obscured objects over the sky, as marked by the magenta symbols. These hot dust-obscured galaxies, or "hot DOGs," are turning out to be among the most luminous, or intrinsically bright objects known, in some cases putting out over 1,000 times more energy than our Milky Way galaxy. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has identified about 1,000 extremely obscured objects over the sky, as marked by the magenta symbols. These hot dust-obscured galaxies, or “hot DOGs,” are turning out to be among the most luminous, or intrinsically bright objects known, in some cases putting out over 1,000 times more energy than our Milky Way galaxy.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

The vast majority of the latest candidates for the Galaxy Zoo are objects previously undetected by astronomers due to dust blocking visible light. Fortunately, the infrared eyes of WISE detected glowing dust around the candidates, which allowed scientists to detect them. These latest findings are clues astronomers use to better understand the processes creating galaxies and the monster black holes residing in their centers

This image zooms in on the region around the first "hot DOG" (red object in magenta circle), discovered by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. Hot DOGs are hot dust-obscured galaxies. Follow-up observations with the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, show this source is over 10 billion light-years away. It puts out at least 37 trillion times as much energy as the sun. WISE has identified 1,000 similar candidate objects over the entire sky (magenta dots). These extremely dusty, brilliant objects are much more rare than the millions of active supermassive black holes also found by WISE (yellow circles). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
This image zooms in on the region around the first “hot DOG” (red object in magenta circle), discovered by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. Hot DOGs are hot dust-obscured galaxies. Follow-up observations with the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, show this source is over 10 billion light-years away. It puts out at least 37 trillion times as much energy as the sun.
WISE has identified 1,000 similar candidate objects over the entire sky (magenta dots). These extremely dusty, brilliant objects are much more rare than the millions of active supermassive black holes also found by WISE (yellow circles).
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

“We’ve got the black holes cornered,” said Daniel Stern of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead author of the WISE black hole study and project scientist for another NASA black-hole mission, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). “WISE is finding them across the full sky, while NuSTAR is giving us an entirely new look at their high-energy X-ray light and learning what makes them tick.” 

Daniel Stern NuSTAR Project Scientist. Credits: NASA
Daniel Stern
NuSTAR Project Scientist. Credits: NASA

Organizing the Monster Zoo

The Monster of the Milky Way, the estimated 4 million solar mass black hole astronomers believe resides at the center, periodically feeds upon material falling too deep into its gravity well, and heats up surrounding disks of dust and gas. Astronomers have even witnessed 1 billion solar mass monster black holes change their surrounding environments enough to shut down star formation processes in their host galaxy. Now, astronomers need to go through the millions of candidates and put them in the correct section of the zoo. We might even need to open a few new sections to accommodate unusual candidates found during a closer examination.  

You can learn more about supermassive black holes here

Watch this YouTube video about the Monster of the Milky Way

Tour NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory here

Journey across the x-ray universe aboard NASA’s WISE

Learn everything NASA has learned during its journey. 

Learn more about the mission of NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescopic Array (NuStar). 

Read more about Quasars

Learn more about dust-obscured galaxies (hot DOGS) here

Learn more about Trojan asteroid TK7

Learn more about the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope

Learn more about How Astronomers Study the Formation of Stars.

Read more about a Wolf-Rayet star astronomers have nicknamed Nasty 1.

Read about the next-generation telescope the Giant Magellan Telescope.