Science

Juno Spacecraft In Safe Mode As It Orbits Jupiter

By Rodney Rafols , Oct 20, 2016 04:37 AM EDT

NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter has been observing the largest planet in our solar system since it arrived last July. It is expected to study the planet at a close range, flying as close as possible to the planet's cloud tops. As it orbits Jupiter, this week Juno has entered into safe mode.

Last October 18 Juno went into safe mode, according to Phys Org. Its likely cause is a software performance monitor that made the spacecraft's computer to be in safe mode. NASA said that Juno has responded as it should when on safe mode. The spacecraft had its computer reboot and conduct software diagnostics. During that time no data transmission has been made.

A planned data collection has been put on hold since the spacecraft's instruments are still off. Despite this NASA has said that it is healthy and is performing the standard procedure for recovery from safe mode.

Just like any computer, Juno's computer has been programmed to enter into safe mode if there are anomalies detected. For Juno the computer has turned off instruments and others that are non-essential. The craft has also been pointed towards the Sun so that its solar arrays can continue to generate power, Science News reports.

"At the time safe mode was entered, the spacecraft was more than 13 hours from its closest approach to Jupiter," said Rick Nybakken, Juno's project manager. Juno is expected to fly as close as 4,100 kilometers of Jupiter, flying just on top of its clouds. From there it will try to probe underneath the clouds to view its auroras and learn more of the planet's origins.

Already Juno has transmitted initial data from its August 27 flyby. From the data received Jupiter's magnetic fields are much stronger than first perceived. The auroras are also much bigger than initially thought. The JunoCam has also started operating that day. All images from the JunoCam would be available on its JunoCam website so people can use the images.

There would be much more information expected from Juno for the duration of its mission. People would want to know more about Jupiter, especially its Great Red Spot, which has been reported to be much hotter than the rest of the planet.

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