Leicester and Juno

In 2003 Professor Stan Cowley of the School of Physics & Astronomy was invited to become a Co-Investigator on a new space mission to Jupiter being proposed to NASA from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, in response an Announcement of Opportunity under the New Frontiers 2003 programme issued in October of that year.

Today, the University of Leicester is home to the UK’s only formal co-investigator of this NASA-led mission (Prof. Stan Cowley), a number of team affiliates for the mission, and the only ‘participating scientist’ on the Juno team (Dr. Leigh Fletcher).  The Leicester team, all members of the Planetary Science Group, have been engaged in a number of different aspects of the mission since its arrival at Jupiter in 2016. 

Leicester’s expertise, honed over decades of involvement with the Cassini mission to Saturn, extends from the churning cloud-decks of the Gas Giant, through the upper atmosphere and aurora, and into the enormous magnetosphere:

  • Planetary astronomers have used world-leading ground-based observatories and space telescopes (e.g., Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope) to provide observations of Jupiter’s atmosphere and auroras throughout the Juno mission.  
  • Leicester atmospheric scientists have explored Juno’s microwave, infrared, and ultraviolet observations to study the climate, weather and chemistry of Jupiter’s atmosphere.
  • Leicester’s expertise in planetary magnetospheres have revealed new insights into the currents flowing withing Jupiter’s magnetosphere.
  • Leicester observations of the Galilean satellites have provided crucial context to Juno’s flybys of Ganymede and Europa during the extended mission.

This combination of Juno data and Earth-based observations have revealed new insights in the jovian system, and prepares us for the treasure-trove of data to come from ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), on which Leicester is a co-investigator.

You can find out more about Leicester’s involvement in Juno via our blog.

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