Important questions require answering regarding the quantity of water the planet contains and the composition of its core. It is hoped that the Juno probe will provide answers to these queries, which will help scientists on Earth to better understand how the Solar System itself was formed and what will be its evolution.
The name of the probe was not chosen by chance. Juno, the Roman version of the Greek god Hera, was the wife of Jupiter, the king of the gods. The marital relationship between these two mythological beings was what led scientists to name the probe as such. The roots of the name of Jupiter itself also lie in the legends of the Greek heroes; it is the largest planet of our star system, and named in reference to the power bestowed on and exerted by the most important divine figure among the Gods of Mount Olympus.
The high technology space probe Juno cost more than a billion US dollars, in a project counting on the scientific collaboration of other countries, such as Italy, France and Belgium, through a partnership with the European Space Agency. After travelling nearly three billion kilometres, if everything goes to plan, the spacecraft will first orbit the poles of the giant planet, something never done before, flying over Jupiter 37 times during a period of one Earth year, at an altitude of 5000 km above its cloud layer.
Last week, almost five years after its launch, Juno entered Jupiter's orbit, allowing scientists on Earth to have for the first time a close-up of this gigantic gaseous planet. And so, once more, Juno and Jupiter are together. This reunion, however, is not the stuff of mythological legends, but should be useful to help unlock many of the secrets hidden in the far reaches of the Solar System.
(Link to Portuguese version article in the Diário Popular of Pelotas)