NASA's Juno spacecraft is set for a close encounter with one of the most visually striking and enigmatic bodies in our solar system – the planet Jupiter. The probe launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Aug. 5, 2011, and having entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4th of this year, will come closer to the planet than any spacecraft before it.
Juno was able to snap images of Jupiter alongside a number of her moons prior to orbital capture. For the orbital insertion process Juno had all of its scientific equipment switched off in order to prepare for the rocket burn that, in the end, successfully inserted the probe into a polar orbit.
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The flyby, which is set to commence at 8:51 a.m. EDT on the 27th of August, will be the nearest of 35 close encounters currently planned for the ambitious mission. During tomorrow's maneuver, Juno will be travelling at a velocity of 130,000 mph (208,000 km/h) relative to the gas giant, and at its closest point will orbit a mere 2,500 miles (4,200 km) from Jupiter's churning upper cloud layer.
Every one of Juno's eight scientific instruments will be operational during the flyby, collecting a wide range of data that will allow scientists across the globe to begin unraveling the planet's secrets. Whilst an in-depth analysis of this data is not likely to be released for some time, the public can look forward to the release of a select few images captured by the spacecraft's JunoCam instrument early next week.
The release will likely include the highest-ever resolution shots of Jupiter's polar regions ... prime desktop material.
Source: NASAView gallery - 3 images