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University of Iowa News Release


Aug. 2, 2011

Image: Artist's conception of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter. Credit: NASA.

Aug. 5 launch of NASA Juno spacecraft carries UI instrument to Jupiter
When NASA's Juno spacecraft begins a five-year journey to Jupiter with a launch from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 5, the University of Iowa will be onboard.

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.

Named after the wife of the god Jupiter in Roman mythology, Juno will be placed in a polar orbit around the planet for one year to explore the polar magnetosphere and origin of the magnetic field. The mission will also provide insight into the origin of Jupiter itself by investigating the deep interior of the planet, determining the amount of global water and ammonia present in the atmosphere, and studying convection and deep wind profiles in the atmosphere. 

The Juno project is a collaborative enterprise including the UI and numerous other organizations and individuals.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. For more information, visit and

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Media: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,; Program: Bill Kurth, lead co-investigator, 319-335-1926,; Don Gurnett, collaborator, 319-335-1697,