Spectacular view of Jupiter, courtesy Juno

Photo: South Polar Region of Jupiter
South Polar Region of Jupiter

This image shows Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers). The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) in diameter. Multiple images taken with the JunoCam instrument on three separate orbits were combined to show all areas in daylight, enhanced color, and stereographic projection.

JunoCam’s raw images are available at http://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam for the public to peruse and process into image products. More information about Juno is online at http://www.nasa.gov/juno

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

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After five years, Juno nears its destination

Image: This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Juno mission, launched nearly five years ago, will soon reach its final destination: the most massive planet in our solar system, Jupiter. On the evening of July 4, at roughly 9 PM PDT (12 AM EDT, July 5), the spacecraft will complete a burn of its main engine, placing it in orbit around the king of planets.

During Juno’s orbit-insertion phase, or JOI, the spacecraft will perform a series of steps in preparation for a main engine burn that will guide it into orbit. At 9:16 PM EDT (July 4), Juno will begin to turn slowly away from the sun and toward its orbit-insertion attitude. Then 72 minutes later, it will make a faster turn into the orbit-insertion attitude.

At 10:41 PM EDT, Juno switches to its low-gain antenna. Fine-tune adjustments are then made to the spacecraft’s attitude. Twenty-two minutes before the main engine burn, at 10:56 PM, the spacecraft spins up from two to five revolutions per minute (RPM) to help stabilize it for the orbit insertion burn.

At 11:18 PM, Juno’s 35-minute main-engine burn will begin. This will slow it enough to be captured by the giant planet’s gravity. The burn will impart a mean change in velocity of 1,212 MPH (542 meters a second) on the spacecraft. It is performed in view of Earth, allowing its progress to be monitored by the mission teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, via signal reception by Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas in Goldstone, California, and Canberra, Australia.

After the main engine burn early July 5 (Eastern Daylight Time), Juno will be in orbit around Jupiter. The spacecraft will spin down from five to two RPM, turn back toward the sun, and ultimately transmit telemetry via its high-gain antenna. At Jupiter’s current distance of 536.9 million miles from Earth, radio signals will take about 48 minutes to reach the DSN.

Juno starts its tour of Jupiter in a 53.5-day orbit. The spacecraft saves fuel by executing a burn that places it in a capture orbit with a 53.5-day orbit instead of going directly for the 14-day orbit that will occur during the mission’s primary science collection period. The 14-day science orbit phase will begin after the final burn of the mission for Juno’s main engine on October 19.

JPL manages the Juno mission for NASA. The mission’s principal investigator is Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The mission is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

Learn more about the June mission, and get an up-to-date schedule of events, at:

http://www.nasa.gov/juno

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/jupiter/junotoolkit

Solstice Celebration a huge success

The night of June 21 the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) participated in the city of Lakewood’s Summer Solstice Celebration. The event, featuring food, music, dance, and frivolity, really focussed on the solstice sunset and the beginning of summer. Representing the CAA, CSU astronomy instructor Jay Reynolds worked with city officials to coordinate safe solar observing through club member telescopes. Reynolds also convinced officials to extend Celebration hours slightly to allow attendees to observe nighttime objects through telescopes.

Reynolds reported that, “In the end, the event drew more than 4,000 to watch a sunset, do some crafts, eat at a food truck (with Lakewood Hospital “Stroke Truck” next to them), look through some awesome telescopes and interact with some really inspiring, kind and generous representatives of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association!  Really well done!”

A tremendous crowd was present, parking up city streets for blocks and covering the Lakewood Park Solstice Steps at the lakefront. There were lines at food trucks and, later, at telescopes, but plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the show — both natural and human-made.

To view a brief video via Twitter, click here.

Here are some photographs made during the celebration….

Photo: Celebration attendees cover the Lakewood Park Solstice Steps as they watch the Lake Erie Sunset. Photo by James Guilford.
Celebration attendees cover the Lakewood Park Solstice Steps as they watch the Lake Erie Sunset.
Photo: Girl views Sun through a CAA member's telescope. Photo by James Guilford.
Girl views Sun through CAA member Tim Campbell’s telescope.
Photo: Two young ladies view the Sun through a rather short telescope. Photo by James Guilford.
Two young ladies view the Sun through a rather short telescope brought by David Nuti for kids smaller than these!
Photo: Oh yes, the sunset! The Celebration was blessed with a gorgeous Lake Erie sunset. The crowd broke into applause as the last bit of red-orange sun disappeared below the horizon! Photo by James Guilford.
Oh yes, the sunset! The Celebration was blessed with a gorgeous Lake Erie sunset. The crowd broke into applause as the last bit of red-orange sun disappeared below the horizon!

“Immediately after the sun dipped below the horizon, we were mobbed with people,” according to Reynolds. “…they saw very good views of Jupiter and its moons, Mars with polar ice cap and dark regions, and Saturn with its rings, and a lot of people saying WOW!”

Photo: Jay Reynolds, gesturing as attendees view Jupiter, coordinated CAA's participation in the Celebration. Photo by James Guilford.
Jay Reynolds, gesturing as attendees view Jupiter, coordinated CAA’s participation in the Celebration.
Photo: CAA President Bill Murmann watches as young woman views Jupiter. Photo by James Guilford.
CAA President Bill Murmann watches as young woman views Jupiter.
Photo: Long line of folks wanting to view Jupiter through Suzi Dills' big Meade. Sorry about blocking your smiling face, Suzi!
Long line of folks wanting to view Jupiter through Suzi Dills’s big Meade. Sorry about blocking your smiling face, Suzi!
Photo: A long line to view planets through an 1874 Alvin Clark & Sons refractor. Nope, the scope isn't bent, it's only fisheye lens distortion! {whew!} Photo by James Guilford.
A long line to view planets through an 1874 Alvin Clark & Sons refractor, brought by Gary Kader. Nope, the scope isn’t bent, it’s only fisheye lens distortion! {whew!}
Photo: A Dobsonian light-bucket affords views of Saturn to a little girl. Photo by James Guilford.
A Dobsonian light-bucket affords views of Saturn to a little girl.

“Towards the end of the night, the representative of Lakewood came and remarked what a nice group we were and it looks like everyone had a great time. She also remarked how appreciative they were, that CAA supported their event and brought these wonderful telescopes.” Reynolds said, “My comment to her was: “this is who we are, this is what we do”.

Photo: After sunset scopes pointed skyward and offered views of planets Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. Photo by James Guilford.
After sunset scopes pointed skyward and offered views of planets Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. Bob Wiersma’s large home-built refractor was a crowd favorite.

Jay Reynolds and the CAA express their thanks for bringing the scopes to the following: Rich & Nancy Whistler, Bill Murmann, Gary Kader, Chris Christe, Dave Nuti, Tim Campbell, Carl Kudrna, Bob Wiersma, Steve Spears, and Suzie Dills. Thanks, too, Anita Kazarian who helped coordinate viewers among the scopes and provided information.

JOI: NASA’s Juno arrives at Jupiter on July 4


Mission Trailer Video: Secrets lie deep within Jupiter, shrouded in the solar system’s strongest magnetic field and most lethal radiation belts. On July 4, 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will plunge into uncharted territory, entering orbit around the gas giant and passing closer than any spacecraft before. Juno will see Jupiter for what it really is, but first it must pass the trial of orbit insertion.

For much more on NASA’s Juno mission, click here!

Celebrate! Juno arrives at Jupiter July 4

Image: Launching from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Launching from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Launched from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach.

Juno’s primary goal is to improve our understanding of Jupiter’s formation and evolution. The spacecraft will spend a year investigating the planet’s origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Juno’s study of Jupiter will help us to understand the history of our own solar system and provide new insight into how planetary systems form and develop in our galaxy and beyond.

Juno’s principal investigator is Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver, Colo., built the spacecraft. The Italian Space Agency, Rome, contributed an infrared spectrometer instrument and a portion of the radio science experiment.

For more information about Juno, visit http://www.nasa.gov/juno

Public Star Party Saturday, June 11

Image: Simulated View of Saturn and Some Moons
Simulated View of Saturn and Some Moons

The CAA will host a public star party for the Medina County Park District at 9:00 PM at Letha House Park West. See Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and more! A cloudy night alternative program will be offered should weather conditions be an issue. Members: please bring your scope to help if you can.

Road closure/detour: Due to a Medina County Highway Engineer’s road improvement construction project, Spencer Lake Road will be closed just east of Richman Road where you would normally access Letha House Park West. This section of road will be closed from June 6 through the end of July 2016. Click HERE for a detour map.

Mornings bring planetary possibilities

Illustration: Five Planets Visible in the Pre-Dawn Sky
Five Planets Visible in the Pre-Dawn Sky

Over recent weeks we have watched as several planets have appeared close together in our morning sky — when clear, that is — and even seen them shift their positions as the days passed! Beginning this frigid week and continuing into mid-February, five of Earth’s Solar System siblings will be visible, spanning the southern sky. This is the first time since 2005 that this planetary lineup has occurred. If we get a break in morning cloud cover go out, just before dawn’s early light, and look for the planetary parade. Little Mercury will be the hardest to spot being both dim and close to the horizon. Venus and Jupiter will be easy as they are the brightest of the bunch. Golden Saturn and finally reddish Mars should also be easy to find though Mars isn’t a standout. The gathering will occur again late this summer and in the evening sky. The planets aren’t really very much closer together in space during this time. The chart below illustrates the current relative positions of the planets; it’s our point of view from Earth that makes creates the scene: something like watching racers on a race track, appearing closer and farther apart as they run laps in their concentric lanes.

Illustration: Lines of Sight Illustrate the Field of View from Earth
Lines of Sight Illustrate the Field of View from Earth