Today all eyes turn to Jupiter where NASA’s Juno spacecraft will enter orbit around the gas giant. In preparation, Hubble and ground-based telescopes have been observing Jupiter in both the visible (upper right) and infrared (upper left) spectrum. The lower image shows a 1:5 scale model of Juno and a full-size replica of one of its solar panels; note the mannequin in the lower right corner for scale.
Juno is entering one of the harshest environments in the solar system with intense magnetic fields that trap lethal amounts of radiation around the planet. The lovely blue auroras Hubble sees around Jupiter’s poles are a never-ending hailstorm of solar wind particles hitting Jupiter’s atmosphere. Juno will be studying the structure of Jupiter’s magnetosphere, gravitational field, and its interior, hopefully helping scientists explain how the planet formed and the role it played in the formation of our solar system. (Image credits: infrared Jupiter – ESO/L. Fletcher; Jovian auroras – Hubble/ESA; Juno model and solar panel – N. Sharp)