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NASA’s Juno space probe has only recently gone into orbit around Jupiter, but the space agency is preparing for a major milestone this weekend.
The probe will make its closest scheduled pass of Jupiter at 5.51am PDT on Saturday (2.51pm SAST), being just 4200km above the gas giant.
“There are 35 more close flybys of Jupiter scheduled during its prime mission (scheduled to end in February of 2018). The August 27 flyby will be the first time Juno will have its entire suite of science instruments activated and looking at the giant planet as the spacecraft zooms past,” the space agency explained.
This will be the closest Juno will ever get to Jupiter’s surface
Data related to the pass will be sent back to Earth “within days”, but interpretation and tentative results won’t be around for some time.
“No other spacecraft has ever orbited Jupiter this closely, or over the poles in this fashion,” said Steve Levin, Juno project scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This is our first opportunity and there are bound to be surprises. We need to take our time to make sure our conclusions are correct.”
Juno is also armed with a rudimentary JunoCam camera, which will be snapping away at the gas giant. In fact, it’s already returned a few images, such as this 23 August dual view of Jupiter.
“A handful of JunoCam images, including the highest resolution imagery of the Jovian atmosphere and the first glimpse of Jupiter’s north and south poles, are expected to be released during the later part of next week,” NASA added.
Featured image: NASA/JPL/Caltech