Jupiter is one of the most interesting planets in our solar system, and with that in mind, it may not come off as much of a surprise that astronomers have spent a great deal of time observing the massive gas giant. In doing so, we’ve discovered a plethora of different moons, including a number of particularly intriguing icy ones that some scientists think could support the complex conditions for life to exist.
The European Space Agency’s upcoming JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission is poised to visit the Jovian system with the hope of analyzing Jupiter’s icy moons in closer proximity than ever before. In doing so, it will harness the power of its onboard instruments to discern whether these moons are as habitable as some scientists think or not.
JUICE will spend time orbiting Callisto and Europa, in addition to becoming the first spacecraft ever to orbit Ganymede. It will study the atmospheres, surfaces, and the sub-surfaces of these worlds with the hope of confirming whether these worlds actually sport briny oceans below their seemingly-solid surfaces. One of these moons even has its own magnetic field, which gives it particular promise.
JUICE will have all the tools it needs, including 10 separate instruments capable of observing these worlds in different lights and detecting their magnetic activity, among other things. Given just how rare it is that we send any spacecraft to the Jovian system, this mission is particularly exciting and will provide scientists with some much-needed information about the conditions surrounding one of the solar system’s most interesting planets.
It will indeed be interesting to see what we learn from the ESA’s JUICE mission. Fortunately, we need only wait until 2022 for the mission to launch. After that, it’ll utilize a slingshot velocity technique using the Sun’s gravity to build up velocity, and it’ll take another 7.5 years to arrive at Jupiter where it can finally make its scientific observations.