Newly orbiting satellite allows public interaction, fresh data about Jupiter, expert tells PAC audience.
By Nicole Bautista
For the first time in human history, a satellite close enough to the surface of Jupiter will allow views underneath clouds that previously blocked attempts to analyze the atmosphere, a planetary scientist said Aug. 29 at Palo Alto College.
Juno, the first solar-powered spacecraft, arrived at its destination this summer, five years after it left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, said Glenn Orton, a senior research scientist specializing in planetary science, with an expertise in gas-planet atmospheres.
He works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Speaking to a crowd of roughly 100 people in the Legacy Room, Orton showed a video of his team’s joyous reaction when Juno reached its destination.
“Jupiter orbit insertion on the 4th of July was an overwhelmingly exciting success,” Orton said.
Orton described the proximity between Juno and Jupiter.
“Could you imagine a basketball, put two fingers on the side, that’s how close we are to the planet,” he said.
Orton was in town for a meeting with Southwest Research Center to discuss the one-of-a-kind satellite Juno.
The spacecraft will cover Jupiter’s surface, making 33 polar orbits, with a mission to “provide answers to critical science questions about Jupiter, as well as key information that will dramatically enhance present theories about the early formation of our own solar system,” Orton said.
Introducing the internationally known scientist was his cousin and Palo Alto science Professor Lance Sandberg. He acknowledged that for as long as he can remember Orton has “always been fascinated by Jupiter.”
Previously, Orton had worked with a spacecraft named Pioneer 11 that also made its way to Jupiter. However, it was not a complete success. A false command caused them to lose half their data from that mission.
“There is more skin in the game with Juno. If we fired in the wrong direction, if we had a false command, the whole mission would be a f-a-i-l-u-r-e,” Orton said, then whispered, “I didn’t want to say that.”
Juno also is the first interplanetary mission to host an education/public outreach instrument. People can visit the mission’s website and vote on what the Juno Cam should photograph next.
“You will get to vote on where to point the camera, believe it or not.” Orton said.
“For the first time ever, anyone who wants, can be a part of the mission and be a part of history.”
Orton said because of its polar orbit, Juno will pass over parts of Jupiter that no one has ever seen before.
“Every orbit is going to be mapped out and every orbit we are going to be relying on the public for the images.”
NASA astronomers have made a short list of Jupiter’s storms, swirls and beauty marks for the public to vote on.
To participate, visit https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam. Follow Juno on Twitter at @NASAJuno or on Facebook at “NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter.”