Juno Update

Juno's location on it's journey to Jupiter. Click for larger. Image: NASA

Juno is well on it’s way to Jupiter and as you will read in NASA’s update below the spacecraft is operating as expected. The image depicts about where Juno is relative to the Earth. I like the larger image (click the one above) because it illustrates nicely why it will not get to Jupiter until July 2016.

You can get the full size version of the image above and also see the Juno spacecraft’s current position and velocity using NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System 3D interactive (free web browser plugin required) or the NASA/JPL Solar System Simulator by going to the Juno webpage at NASA.

Here’s NASA’s update:

As of October 25, 2011 Juno was approximately 23.3 million miles (37.4 million kilometers) from Earth traveling at a velocity of 66,700 miles per hour (107,300 kilometers per hour) relative to the sun. One way travel time for a signal from Earth is approximately 2 minutes 5 seconds. The spacecraft is in excellent health and is operating nominally.

During the week of October 13-19 the Juno team completed coarse alignment of the spacecraft’s high gain antenna, or HGA with Juno’s spin axis. The HGA is the large, saucer-shaped antenna on Juno’s forward (top) deck. During these calibrations, mission controllers finely adjust the tilt angle of Juno’s three large solar arrays in order to carefully re-balance the spacecraft’s mass and bring the antenna’s pointing in to tight alignment with the spin axis.

Precise antenna alignment is important for gravity science operations at Jupiter, in which the HGA will be pointed directly at Earth in order to track minute changes in Juno’s acceleration within Jupiter’s gravity field.

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