Juno spacecraftAs NASA's Juno spacecraft begins a five-year journey to Jupiter with a launch from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 5, the University of Iowa is onboard. View launch video

One of nine Juno experiments, the UI-designed-and-built radio and plasma wave instrument will examine a variety of phenomena within Jupiter's polar magnetosphere and its auroras when it arrives at the planet in July 2016.

UI veteran space researchers Bill Kurth and Don Gurnett are members of a Juno team whose spacecraft will explore Jupiter by orbiting the planet some 33 times in 12 months before descending into the planet's atmosphere.

Kurth, UI research scientist and lead investigator for the Juno Waves instrument, said the UI experiment provides an opportunity to explore Jupiter's magnetosphere. In particular, Juno will explore the solar system's most powerful auroras -- Jupiter's northern and southern lights -- by flying directly through the electrical current systems that generate the auroras and radio waves.

"Jupiter has the largest and most energetic magnetosphere, and to finally get an opportunity to study the nature of its auroras makes Juno a really exciting mission for me," said Kurth.

The Juno Waves instrument will be the seventh UI instrument to make the trek to Jupiter. Previous UI instruments were carried aboard Pioneers 10 and 11, Voyagers 1 and 2, Galileo and Cassini, currently in orbit around Saturn.

The Waves instrument was built at the UI by a group of a dozen or so scientists, engineers and technicians led by Research Engineer Donald Kirchner.

Gurnett, professor of physics in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a world leader in the field of space plasma physics, said the Juno spacecraft will expand upon Jupiter data gathered by previous UI instruments.

Other major Juno objectives include:

--Measure Jupiter's atmospheric water content.
--Record the composition, temperature, cloud motions and other atmospheric data.
--Map the planet's magnetic and gravity fields to learn more about its interior.

Read more of the UI News Release


Program: Donald Kirchner; Bill Kurth, lead co-investigator; Don Gurnett, collaborator.

Media: Gary Galluzzo, (gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu)

Photo and video credits: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)