Small Talk Science: Juno

Most university students have a hard time getting the few kilometres to class on time, can you imagine trying to get the 2.8 billion kilometres to Jupiter only one second late?

That’s exactly what NASA did when their Juno spacecraft arrived at our solar system’s biggest planet.

The incredible mission has been making headlines and starting small talk since it’s arrival. Here’s what you need to know so you look smart the next time someone brings up Juno in small talk..

Juno is named after Jupiter’s wife (and sister)

Jupiter (aka Zeus) was a lady’s man and wanted to hide his cheating ways from his wife (and sister) Juno so he conjured up clouds to hide behind. But Juno could see through the cloud, just as the spacecraft is using its sensors to see through Jupiter’s dense gas clouds to study the planet.

But the fun doesn’t stop there because Jupiter’s four moons are named Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto — all after Jupiter’s lovers.

So NASA is sending a space craft named after Jupiter’s wife to check up on her husband and his lovers. Who said scientists have no sense of humour?

Juno has three lego passengers

Aluminum lego figures of Jupiter, Juno and Galileo, who discovered the planet, are riding shotgun inside the basketball court-sized spacecraft. The little adventurers are seated inside the spacecrafts radiation-shielding “bus” — the craft’s central structure— while the spacecraft is exposed to the radiation of 500 million bananas in orbit around Jupiter. Poor Galileo will definitely have cancer after this trip.

The spacecraft is the most distant solar spacecraft ever

The nine instruments onboard are powered by three massive solar panels but that’s not even the impressive part. Because Jupiter is so far from the sun it only receives four per cent of the sunlight Earth receives. That means all of the scientific instruments on the craft run off of less power than your average hair-dryer. NASA maximized the energy they could get by taking Juno in an orbit around Jupiter that never sees Jupiter block the spaceship’s sunlight.

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Juno will commit suicide so it doesn’t infect Jupiter’s moons

After 20 months and 37 orbits around the planet, Juno will intentionally burn up in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Why? So it doesn’t accidentally seed one of Jupiter’s moons with bacteria from Earth. It’s NASA’s version of birth control.

Juno is looking for water and Jupiter’s core

Why spend $1.1 billion USD to go to Jupiter? Two of Juno’s main questions are how much water is inside Jupiter and does Jupiter have a core. Learning more about Jupiter will teach us about the formation of the solar system and our own planet.

Want to learn more? Go visit Juno's website.