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Jupiter continues to surprise science

By Juana Jones
On November 30, 2017


Photo taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft.

On Nov. 14, Kirkwood Community College hosted the 46th annual Mel Oliven lecture. 

The topic for this lecture was Juno’s exploration of Jupiter, presented by Dr. William S. Kurth from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa. 

During the lecture, Kurth discussed the objectives of the Juno mission, as well as how they plan to achieve those objectives.

He stated that one of the objectives is to find the origin of Jupiter. Currently, studies show that Jupiter was made up of the leftover mass after the sun was formed, making Jupiter the first planet in the solar system. 

Jupiter holds 70 percent of the mass in the solar system second only to the sun. However, it is still bringing new surprises to science. 

One such discovery, according to Kurth, was that Jupiter holds a “fuzzy” core. This means that the core is not as solid and compacted as Earth and other planets’ cores. He said instead it is made of heavy metals which may have “dissolved” into a less compact core. 

Russell Manterenach, a second year student working toward  his Associate of Science degree at Kirkwood stated, “I find it very interesting that Jupiter has complex magnetic, and that core was found to be different than expected.”

This discovery would not have been made possible were it not for the technological marvels used by the Juno spacecraft, according to Kurth. 

The Juno spacecraft consists of eight instruments and an additional camera was added to the pictorial view of Jupiter. Each instrument is used for a very specific purpose ranging from taking pictures to providing spectral images of the UV auroral emissions in the polar magnetosphere in which the Ultraviolet Spectrograph is used for. 

However, Kurth said each instrument requires energy to operate. By providing energy, NASA made Juno the first all solar spacecraft. Juno was equipped with three 30-foot- long (9-meter) solar arrays festooned with 18,698 individual solar cells.

The Juno mission is currently scheduled to end July 20, 2022, but due to funding, the mission will end in 2019. 

Richard Scearce, industrial technology instructor, asked Kurth, “What do you hope to see in the future of this mission?” 

Kurth responded, “I hope to find how auroras are formed and how energetic particles are accelerated by Jupiter’s mass.”

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