The Suitcase Lady


June 6, 2017, 9:45 pm

It’s June, the month named after Jupiter’s wife, Juno, and I would like to talk about Juno….and Juno.

In mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. Juno, however, was able to peer through the clouds and see what her husband was up to.

NASA has a Juno mission which is also looking beneath the clouds. The clouds surround the planet Jupiter, and the mission’s goal “is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the process and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation.”

Last July, the remarkable Juno spacecraft started circling Jupiter after a five year, 1.8 billion mile journey. If all goes well, the spacecraft will be working hard for twenty months. Then NASA will plunge it into Jupiter’s atmosphere to be vaporized and crushed. Juno’s death will spare Jupiter’s moons “from any nasty hitchhiking microbes brought from Earth”.

Juno’s pictures and data are currently being released. Scott Bolton, the mission manager, sums up the findings: “The general theme of our discoveries is really how different Jupiter looks from what we expected.”

A few of the surprises are that the planet’s magnetic field is twice as strong as predicted. It’s core was believed to be dense and small but now appears to be “fluffy” and dispersed. And the poles are chaotic, riddled with cyclones and turbulent features.

Traveling aboard Juno are three Lego figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo. According to a NASA scientist, “We put these Lego minifigures on Juno in order to inspire and motivate and engage children, to help them share the excitement of space exploration.” Hopefully, a few adults will be inspired as well.

Click here for more Jupiter facts.

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