PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It's traveled 2 billion miles to the largest planet in our solar system; the space probe Juno is set to unlock the mysteries of Jupiter.
Here in our own backyard, the Buhl Planetarium at the Carnegie Science Center is offering visitors a close-up look.
Even traveling 40 miles per second, it's taken the space probe Juno five years to reach Jupiter, and confirmation that it had entered into a stable and controllable orbit was met with cheers at NASA's jet propulsion lab in Pasadena, California.
And folks at the Buhl Planetarium are no less excited about the mission, the first images of Jupiter and its four Galilean moons, and for close-up images to come.
"These are images that will be literally more than you can imagine," Ralph Crewe with the Planetarium said.
Planetarium visitors can visualize this mission to the solar system's largest planet -- a so-called gas giant, 12 times wider than Earth and 300 times more massive.
Juno will orbit Jupiter for a year and a half – mapping and photographing the planet in natural, ultraviolet and infrared light – trying to unlock the stodgy secrets that baffle astronomers, like does it have a rocky core or a gaseous one?
"We still don't really understand entirely how gas giants form," Crewe said. "We have big questions about what the core of a gas giant is like, and the measurements we get from Juno will help us understand that."
But for the rest of us, it might be just as rewarding seeing those strange and otherworldly images – like Jupiter's continually active auroras, which should put on a spectacular display.
"They give us a lot of clues into the behavior of the magnetic field, and they're also just really cool to look at," Crewe said.
And later this month, you'll be invited to the Science Center roof to actually view Jupiter through the Planetarium's powerful telescope. Those SkyWatch Nights will begin after dark on July 16 and 27.
"And we have a bunch of staff here that's willing to answer all sorts of questions, any questions that anyone might have," Charissa Sedor with the Planetarium said.
You can see the images coming back from Juno on the web or you can head down to one of the SkyWatch Nights and take a peek yourself. Either way, the images you see will be eye-popping.
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