Juno enters the orbit of Jupiter after over four years in space.

A digital representation of Juno’s view as it approached Jupiter

Late in the evening of July 4th, 2016, NASA’s probe Juno finished its journey to Jupiter, the fifth planet in our solar system, and entered orbit around it.

The probe was launched back on August 5th, 2011, as part of the New Frontiers program, which previously sent the New Horizons space probe to Pluto in 2006. The objective of the unmanned mission is to investigate Jupiter and report back with previously unknown information about Jupiter’s physical make up. This information will help scientists understand how Jupiter, and by extension the rest of the planets in the solar system formed. It is planned to spend the next twenty months orbiting Jupiter, completing 37 full orbits, before allowing its orbit to decay and falling into the gas giant. It will be transmitting information to NASA for this entire duration.

The last photo sent from Juno before powering down nonessential instruments to enter orbit.
The last photo sent from Juno before powering down nonessential instruments to enter orbit.

When news of the successful orbit reached NASA the mood was one of jubilation, with administrator Charles Borden saying Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter. And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”

The name of the probe comes from Greco-Roman mythology, specifically a story where Juno, wife of Jupiter, penetrates swirling clouds surrounding him to find his true nature. The Juno probe has the same objective, although in a slightly different context.