A solar-powered spacecraft named Juno is circling Jupiter on a mission to map the giant planet from the inside out.
NASA mission control received a radio signal Monday night from the Juno spacecraft confirming that it's in orbit around the biggest planet in the solar system.
The spacecraft in orbit is carrying two instruments that were designed and built in San Antonio at the Southwest Research Institute: the Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) and the Ultraviolet Spectrograph (UVS).
The JADE instrument will be used to measure electrons and ions, looking at how the planet’s magnetic poles create dazzling and vivid displays of light at the poles. The UVS will look at the spectrum of light being emitted, something Weidner said is similar to what we see on Earth.
"We're starting to realize Jupiter might be the key to our existence," said Dr. Scott Bolton said, the mission's lead scientific investigator at the Southwest Research Institute. "We don't understand the history of water in the early solar system. It's clearly important to us. The whole formation of life, basically, the origin of life is dependent on water."
Juno is going to help scientists study how Jupiter formed. They hope to learn how much water is on Jupiter, and what role H20 played in the planet's creation.
They also want to study Jupiter's magnetosphere and auroras at its poles.
"We see these incredible aurorae, we see how strong they are, but we've never been able to fly over the region where the aurora's being produced," Dr. Bolton said.
Because Juno's camera and other instruments were turned off during the highly anticipated arrival, there won't be pictures of the key moment.
The trip took nearly five years and 1.8 billion miles (2.8 billion kilometers). Juno is the first spacecraft to venture so far from Earth powered by the sun.
It'll spend 20 months circling Jupiter's poles, peering through thick clouds and studying the planet's gravity and magnetic fields.
Engine burn complete and orbit obtained. I’m ready to unlock all your secrets, #Jupiter. Deal with it.— NASA's Juno Mission (@NASAJuno) July 5, 2016
A Twitter account for the mission let the world know that the spacecraft had made it successfully, saying, "I'm ready to unlock all your secrets Jupiter. Deal with it.
Juno will orbit Jupiter 33 times. Once it's mission is over, the satellite will plunge into the giant planet and be destroyed.
This story was collaborated with reports from the Associated Press.