UT professor weighs in on Jupiter space probe

The mysteries of planet Jupiter could become a thing of the past very soon. After a five year long journey, the NASA spacecraft "Juno" has entered the planet's orbit.

“We've never flown this close to Jupiter, a very dangerous environment with really harsh radiation, we got through and we survived,” Fran Bagenal, Juno team scientist, said.

Launching the spacecraft wasn't so bad, but the ending of the journey was a bit hair raising. Scientists had to slow Juno down to enter orbit, a risky process that could’ve gone wrong by just passing up the planet. The feat has professors at the University of Texas excited.

“I think it's probably hard for them to comprehend that it's actually worked. You devote so much of your life to that and so many things could’ve gone wrong,” Michael Boylan-Kolchin, astronomy professor, said.

Boylan-Kolchin says learning more about Jupiter opens up many doors to learning more about our galaxy.

“The composition of Jupiter, what it's made of,  how dense it is and things like that can really tell us what was going in in the early stages and fornation of the solar system,” he said.

Juno is not in the clear just yet. The harsh radiation and inhospitable environment could make the equipment on board vulnerable. But for now, entering orbit is a great start.

“Jupiter doesn't really have a stable surface like we think of normally for a planet. It has just an atmosphere and as you get down it has this metallic hydrogen,” Boylan-Kolchin said.

That's what scientists believe Jupiter consists of. Now Juno can confirm or debunk any beliefs. Juno will spend 20 months figuring out what Jupiter is all about. It is believed to be the solar system's largest planet.

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