NASA's Juno probe gets its first close look at Jupiter

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NASA's Juno Just Got Its Closest Look Yet At Jupiter

Soaring about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above the planet's clouds, NASA's Juno space probe had its closest-ever look at Jupiter Saturday.

The pass was the first of 36 planned orbital flybys, NASA said in a statement. Soaring at 130,000 miles per hour (208,000 kilometers per hour), it was the nearest the spacecraft will get to Jupiter during its main mission, which should end in February 2018.

Juno launched from Florida on Aug. 5, 2011, and in July, became the first probe to orbit Jupiter since NASA's Galileo mission ended in 2003.

The nerve wracking five year journey into space, and Juno successful attempt to enter into orbit around Jupiter, were hailed by scientists as an immense opportunity to discover more about the mysterious gas planet.

It's thought that new moons beyond the 67 we know about could be found. By mapping the planet's magnetic fields, scientists are also hoping to unearth new clues about how our solar system was formed.

About the size of a basketball court, the Juno probe had all its scientific instruments on and turned to Jupiter Saturday, attempting to gather as much data as possible. Images captured by JunoCam during the trip will be released shortly, including shots of Jupiter's north and south poles.

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NASA's Juno spacecraft lands on Jupiter
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NASA's Juno spacecraft lands on Jupiter
An artist's rendering depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft above Jupiter's north pole in this undated handout image. Launched in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Members of the Juno team celebrate at a press conference after they received confirmation from the Juno spacecraft that it had completed the engine burn and successfully entered into orbit around Jupiter,at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, U.S. in this July 4, 2016 handout photo. The Juno mission launched August 5, 2011 and will orbit the planet for 20 months to collect data on the planetary core, map the magnetic field, and measure the amount of water and ammonia in the atmosphere. NASA/Aubrey Gemignani/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
(L-R) Dr. Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director, NASA; Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute; Geoff Yoder, acting Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA; Michael Watkins, director, NASA?s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); and Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); celebrate with others on the Juno team after they received confirmation from the spacecraft that it had successfully completed the engine burn and entered orbit of Jupiter, in mission control of the Space Flight Operations Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, U.S. in this July 4, 2016 handout photo. The Juno mission launched August 5, 2011 and will orbit the planet for 20 months to collect data on the planetary core, map the magnetic field, and measure the amount of water and ammonia in the atmosphere. NASA/Aubrey Gemignani/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
A 1/4 scale model of NASA's Juno Spacecraft is seen in front of an image of Jupiter, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, July 3, 2016. NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft is scheduled to enter into orbit around Jupiter on July 4 to begin an in-depth study of the planet's formation, evolution and structure. The key event on July 4 is a 35-minute engine burn at 11:18 p.m. EDT (0318 GMT on Tuesday), which is designed to slow Juno down enough to be captured by Jupiter's powerful gravity. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
NASA's Juno Mission Principal Investigator Scott Bolton (L) and Robert Kondrk (R), Apple vice president for Content and Media Apps, speak at a press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, June 30, 2016 to announce 'Destination: Juno,' a collaboration between NASA and Apple to bring 'exploratory' music inspired by space from artists such as Brad Paisley, Corinne Bailey Rae, GZA, Jim James featuring Lydia Tyrell, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Weezer and Zoé to Apple Music and iTunes listeners. The Juno spacecraft is scheduled to enter Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016 after a five years voyage to the fifth planet from the sun. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
NASA Program Executive Diane Brown (L), Juno Mission Principal Investigator Scott Bolton (C) and Robert Kondrk (R), Apple vice president for Content and Media Apps, attend a press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, June 30, 2016 to announce 'Destination: Juno,' a collaboration between NASA and Apple to bring 'exploratory' music inspired by space from artists such as Brad Paisley, Corinne Bailey Rae, GZA, Jim James featuring Lydia Tyrell, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Weezer and Zoé to Apple Music and iTunes listeners. The Juno spacecraft is scheduled to enter Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016 after a five years voyage to the fifth planet from the sun. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 30: A scientist works at the Deep Space Network desk in the mission control room of the JPL Space Flight Operations Facility at JPL as NASA officials and the public look forward to the Independence Day arrival of the the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter, at JPL on June 30, 2016 in Pasadena, California. After having traveling nearly 1.8 billion miles over the past five years, the NASA Juno spacecraft will arrival to Jupiter on the Fourth of July to go enter orbit and gather data to study the enigmas beneath the cloud tops of Jupiter. The risky $1.1 billion mission will fail if it does not enter orbit on the first try and overshoots the planet. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 30: Cassini Ace Bill Mogensen works at his desk in the mission control room of the JPL Space Flight Operations Facility at JPL as NASA officials and the public look forward to the Independence Day arrival of the the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter, at JPL on June 30, 2016 in Pasadena, California. After having traveling nearly 1.8 billion miles over the past five years, the NASA Juno spacecraft will arrival to Jupiter on the Fourth of July to go enter orbit and gather data to study the enigmas beneath the cloud tops of Jupiter. The risky $1.1 billion mission will fail if it does not enter orbit on the first try and overshoots the planet. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - (From R) Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager, Scott Bolton, NASA principal investigator for the Juno mission to Jupiter and Jim Green, NASA director of Planetary Science, react as the Juno spacecraft successfully enters Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5, 2011 on a five-year voyage to its mission to study the planet's formation, evolution and structure. / AFP / POOL / Ringo Chiu (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
Scott Bolton (L), NASA principal investigator for the Juno mission to Jupiter, reacts as the Juno spacecraft successfully enters Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5, 2011 on a five-year voyage to its mission to study the planet's formation, evolution and structure. / AFP / POOL / Ringo Chiu (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Juno Project Manager Rick Nybakken (C) celebrates as the solar-powered Juno spacecraft goes into orbit around Jupiter, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on July 4, 2016. Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5, 2011 on a five-year voyage to its mission to study the planet's formation, evolution and structure. / AFP / POOL / Ringo Chiu (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
Staff members watch on before the solar-powered Juno spacecraft went into orbit around Jupiter, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on July 4, 2016. Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5, 2011 on a five-year voyage to its mission to study the planet's formation, evolution and structure. / AFP / POOL / Ringo Chiu (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
Diane Brown (L), NASA Juno program executive, Scott Bolton (C), Juno principal investigator and Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager, celebrate at a press conference after the Juno spacecraft was successfully placed into Jupiter's orbit, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on July 4, 2016. Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5, 2011 on a five-year voyage to its mission to study the planet's formation, evolution and structure. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Juno Project Manager Rick Nybakken (L) and principal investigator Scott Bolton (R) celebrate as the solar-powered Juno spacecraft goes into orbit around Jupiter, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on July 4, 2016. Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5, 2011 on a five-year voyage to its mission to study the planet's formation, evolution and structure. / AFP / POOL / Ringo Chiu (Photo credit should read RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JULY 4: Juno team members celebrate in mission control of the Space Flight Operations Facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory after receiving confirmation from the spacecraft that it has successfully entered orbit of Jupiter, July 4, 2016 in Pasadena, CA. The Juno mission launched August 5, 2011 and will orbit the planet for 20 months to collect data on the planetary core, map the magnetic field, and measure the amount of water and ammonia in the atmosphere. (Photo by Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via Getty Images)
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"We are in an orbit nobody has ever been in before, and these images give us a whole new perspective on this gas-giant world," Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator, said in the statement.

"We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak," he added. "It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us."

After its 20-month-mission ends, Juno will be plunged into Jupiter's clouds by NASA engineers. But for now, it has plenty of work left to do.


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