Galileo Spacecraft Reaches Jupiter (Great Events: 1900-2001)
Article abstract: Six years after its deployment from the space shuttle Atlantis, the Galileo spacecraft reached its destination, the planet Jupiter.
Fifth Rock from the Sun
Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun and the largest planet in the solar system, has intrigued scientists for hundreds of years. Following the invention of the telescope in the seventeenth century, the Italian scientist Galilei Galileo’s observations of the moons of Jupiter changed fundamental assumptions about the universe. In the ensuing centuries, scientists learned that Jupiter is a giant gas planet, possesses an atmosphere, has a powerful magnetic field, and emits more heat than it absorbs from the sun. Turbulence in Jupiter’s outer atmosphere, such as the movement of the famous Red Spot, could be observed with telescopes, although the exact composition of the atmosphere remained unknown.
Data transmitted by U.S. Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft as they passed by Jupiter in the 1970’s raised many additional questions. Voyager detected the presence of active volcanoes on Io, one of Jupiter’s sixteen known satellites, as well as faint rings similar to Saturn’s circling Jupiter itself. With its numerous moons and gaseous nature, Jupiter resembles a miniature solar system. Scientists believed that a close examination of the planet Jupiter could make significant contributions to understanding the early history of the solar...
(The entire section is 926 words.)
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