9th through 12th grades (14 to 18 years old), 40 to 60 minutes

Cassini-Huygens (NASA/ESA/ASI)

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Cassini-Huygens (NASA/ESA/ASI):

  • Successful Saturn orbiter & probe

  • Launch: October 15, 1997; Jupiter flyby: December 30, 2000

  • Cassini-Huygens' path to Saturn required flybys of Venus, Earth, and Jupiter. 

  • Engineers used the Jupiter encounter to test the spacecraft's instruments and operations. During the flyby, Cassini captured incredible images of the gas giant and its larger moons in a science plan that was coordinated with Galileo observations.

New Horizons (NASA):

  • Pluto / Kuiper Belt flyby

  • Launch: January 19, 2006; Jupiter flyby: January-May, 2007

  • New Horizons is the result of a long battle to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a Jupiter gravity assist trajectory to Pluto. 

  • It observed Jupiter over five months around the flyby in early 2007, with its closest approach on February 27.

  • It was the first spacecraft to observe the newly formed Little Red Spot, and also caught Io's north polar volcano Tvashtar in the middle of a spectacular eruption.

Future Missions

Juno (NASA):

  • Future Jupiter polar orbiter

  • Launch: Planned for August 2011; Jupiter arrival: Planned for August 2016

  • Juno will survey Jupiter from a polar orbit, carrying a suite of instruments designed to study the planet's interior.

  • It will investigate the existence of an ice-rock core; determine the amount of global water and ammonia present in the atmosphere; study convection and deep wind profiles in the atmosphere; investigate the origin of the Jovian magnetic field; and explore the polar magnetosphere.

B) Ask students what they would like to find out about Jupiter or any of the Galilean moons. What questions would they design a spacecraft to answer? What sorts of instruments would help them answer these questions?
C) Remind students where to look for Jupiter at the current time, then exit the dome and regroup outside.
V) Conclusion (5 minutes)
A) When all have exited, review the key concepts of the lesson. Why are the four largest moons of Jupiter called the Galilean moons? What other achievements is Galileo known for? What role did the Galilean moons play in our understanding of the universe? What do scientists hope to learn from future missions to Jupiter or its moons?

Last revision: November 26, 2008 5

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