NASA’s Juno spacecraft is now approaching Jupiter after a five-year trip through space. It’s due to arrive July 4, 2016. It obtained this color view of the planet and its four largest moons on June 21. At the distance of this image, 6.8 million miles (10.9 million km), the alternating light and dark bands of the planet’s clouds were just beginning to come into view.
Juno, an unmanned spacecraft the size of a basketball court, launched on August 5, 2011. On July 4, 2016, the solar-powered spacecraft will enter orbit around Jupiter and fly within 2,900 miles (4,667 km) of the cloud tops of our solar system’s largest planet. It’ll be the first craft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo, which arrived in 1995 and spent eight years in orbit.
NASA described the spacecrafts approach:
Juno is approaching over Jupiter’s north pole, affording the spacecraft a unique perspective on the Jupiter system. Previous missions that imaged Jupiter on approach saw the system from much lower latitudes, closer to the planet’s equator.
Bottom line: NASA’s Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Juno captured this image – in which the planet’s 4 largest moons are visible – on June 21, 2016.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.