Juno successfully reached Jupiter and achieved orbit around the gas giant today, and Google is celebrating with a Google Doodle. The animated 8-bit Google Doodle celebrates a successful orbit insertion and an 18-month mission that may solve many mysteries about the gas giant.
Here’s what you need to know.
Juno Successfully Entered Orbit After a Five-Year Journey
The Google Doodle features a team of cheering scientists on the left, which is exactly what happened when Mission Control announced the successful orbit.
“Welcome to Jupiter!” one person announced to Mission Control. And with that, everyone began cheering and hugging. The moment marked five years of travel and even more years of planning before that.
The craft has now turned toward the sun and tomorrow it will turn back to Earth and begin communication. During the live stream, NASA reported that in just a couple days, all the instruments on Juno will be turned back on and Juno will begin collecting data.
Here’s Why Achieving Orbit Was So Difficult
The Juno spacecraft had to enter a polar orbit before it could begin studying the gas giant up close. The craft was speeding toward Jupiter and once it reached about 165,000 mph, the craft had to fire its engines to slam on its brakes in time to enter orbit. The engines had to fire for 35 minutes and burn 17,600 pounds of fuel in order to slow the craft enough to enter orbit. It was a tricky maneuver, but everything went perfectly. Juno will now stay in orbit for 18 months, studying magnetic fields, gravitational fields, and taking photos.
The goal of the Juno mission is to solve some of the mysteries of this gas giant. We’re still not sure what’s happening under Jupiter’s clouds or what type of core it has, or even exactly what’s happening in the planet’s giant red spot. The Juno spacecraft will orbit Jupiter’s poles, avoiding the more dangerous radiation belts. The craft is outfitted with a color camera, called the JunoCam, that will take close-up photos of Jupiter. NASA is even getting the public’s input on where to take the photos. The mission will end on February 20, 2018, which is when scientists expect Juno to crash into Jupiter. The craft is crashing into Jupiter’s atmosphere so it doesn’t accidentally crash land into one of Jupiter’s moons. Europa, for example, has been suspected of harboring life, which could be contaminated if the craft crashed there.
Learn more about the mission and see photos of Jupiter and photos from the JunoCam below: