29 Jul 2016

The head of Nasa's Juno Mission

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:25 pm on 29 July 2016

Scott Bolton is responsible for overall success of NASA's Juno mission and leader of the science team. The Juno mission was launched in 2011 to study Jupiter's origin, atmosphere, magnetosphere and interior structure.

Juno Mission

Juno Mission Photo: NASA

Bolton is currently visiting New Zealand and will  deliver a free public lecture this evening at 6pm at AUT.

It's at the WG Sir Paul Reeves building off mayoral drive on AUT's City campus. 

Bolton talks to Jesse Mulligan about the Juno mission.

Read an edited excerpt from their conversation

What unexpected problems did you run into?

We didn’t really have any problems as far as I could tell. We’ve analysed a lot of the data now and we definitely saw effects from the radiation but none of them were damaging enough to do anything that was serious or that would prevent us from accomplished the mission. We’re still analysing it all. There’s no doubt the radiation was there, but I think we protected ourselves with all the armoured shielding just right.

What’s Juno up to right now?

Juno is in its first orbit, the first one is 153 days long.  And we’re going to come around again and get really close to Jupiter on August 27th, that’ll be the first really close flyby of the planet with all of our eyes and ears open. We will have ever science instruments on at that time and we will make the first measurements and we will see what Jupiter looks like up, close and personal.

What particular data have seen so far? Anything particularly interesting?

Yeah! We made a great approach movie as we approached Jupiter that shows Jupiter and its moons moving and that’s the first time we’ve really seen that in motion.

We have also seen a lot of data that we have gathered looking at the relationship between the solar wind and Jupiter’s magnetosphere. There’s a really strong aurora – the northern or southern lights of Jupiter are really intense and we’ve been studying those along with the interaction of the sun and the solar wind with Jupiter’s shield - which is its magnetic shield which has so we have been gathering a lot of data about its polar magnetosphere. So charged particles, ultraviolet imaging, and radio waves, so it’s really fascinating. But Juno is designed to go in close to Jupiter, so that won’t happen until August 27.

So the photos that it takes, are they supposed to be “wow” photos for those of us on earth who don’t know exactly what we’re looking at?

Yeah I think so. We have Juno-Cam which is taking images, that’s how we took approach image. We were really far away from Jupiter so you could see the moons going around it [because we were] pretty far away]. But once we get in close the camera is going to get the first close ups and the first view of the pole of Jupiter, we don’t know what the poles look like so we will go right over the north and south poles and take a picture of those and we will post them on the internet right away and then we will get close ups of the clouds. It’s hard to say what they’re going to look like. But I think they’ll be amazing, we’ve hardly ever seen the clouds super close before.

What are you most looking forward to?

Well some of the stuff I’m really interested in is what’s beneath those clouds. We have an instrument – a microwave instrument -  that can see beneath the cloud tops so we will see how deep the zones of the clouds and how deep the roots of that great red spot goes – it must be pretty deep because that storm has lasted hundreds of years. So I’m very curious to see how deep those roots go into Jupiter and what’s driving that storm and all of the dynamics we see.

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