Sky's Up Summer 2016 - Page 6

NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrives at Jupiter in July After a nearly 5-year journey, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will reach its final destination on July 4 as it eases into a polar orbit around our solar system’s largest planet —the gas giant Jupiter. Juno, which began its long trek to Jupiter on Aug. 5, 2011, is tasked with uncovering the secrets of the cloudshrouded planet to provide detailed insight into its origins and evolution. COURTESY OF NASA/JPL-Caltech Mission highlights will include This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s Juno mapping Jupiter’s magnetic and spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter. gravity fields to discover the planet’s interior structure; studying the polar regions and auroras; and observing deep into the atmosphere to measure factors like composition and circulation. After making 33 orbits of Jupiter, Juno will wrap up its mission on Oct. 16, 2017. At that time, the spacecraft will plunge into Jupiter’s atmosphere and burn up in a maneuver designed to protect Jupiter’s satellites from being contaminated by any stowaway microbes from Earth. For more information on the Juno mission, click here. on the horizon May 14 — Astronomy Day Promoted and organized by the Astronomical League, National Astronomy Day is scheduled for May 14, and events are being planned around the country to celebrate. Organizers describe the day as a grass roots movement with a mission to expose as many people as possible to the wonders of astronomy. For more information, click here. 6 • In January 2016, Juno became the most distant solar-powered explorer when it surpassed the record set in October 2012 by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft. • On each of its 33 expected orbits of Jupiter, Juno will come within 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) of the planet’s distinct cloud tops. • Juno’s cargo includes three special Lego minifigures representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno (the spacecraft’s namesake) and Galileo, who discovered Jupiter’s four largest moons. — Source: JPL/NASA — Compiled by Patricia Smith, Source: NASA/JPL May 1-8 — Texas Star Party The 38th Annual Texas Star Party will kick off on May 1 at the Prude Ranch six miles northwest of Fort Davis, Texas. In addition to offering extremely dark skies