Jupiter space mission in spotlight at public lecture
Planetary scientists will reveal fascinating insights into an exciting new mission to study Jupiter’s large, ocean-bearing icy moons at a special event at Space Park Leicester.
The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – or JUICE mission – will embark on its eight-year voyage to Jupiter in April to discover how such worlds might harbour life.
Within days of its launch, leading experts from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester and Space Park Leicester, Professors Emma Bunce, Leigh Fletcher and Nigel Bannister, will give a talk at the iconic venue about the challenges the mission faces and its overall aims.
Professor Bunce, who has helped to develop the mission and recently took on the role of Director at the University of Leicester’s Institute for Space, said: “After just a few decades of space exploration with robotic spacecraft, we now have tantalising evidence that deep oceans of liquid water exist beneath the icy crusts of moons and dwarf planets in our solar system.
“This raises the question of the potential habitability of these extra-terrestrial environments, as life as we know it depends on the presence of liquid water.
“Two of the Galilean moons in the Jupiter system, Europa and Ganymede, are thought to harbour such underground oceans, based largely on observations from the NASA Galileo mission in the late 1990s.
“In order to take the next step in our exploration of the properties of these oceans, however, we require dedicated spacecraft to make a variety of precise measurements.
“We are now poised to undertake this step-change in our understanding with the ESA Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, which will focus on Ganymede, and the forthcoming NASA Europa Clipper mission.”
Jupiter is more than five times farther from the Sun than our Earth, so reaching it is a significant challenge.
After the mission launch on April 13, a series of gravity-assist flybys of Earth and Venus will give JUICE the speed and direction it needs to fly beyond the asteroid belt and reach our Solar System’s largest planet.
Following its arrival at Jupiter in 2031, it will be guided through another 35 flybys of the gas giant’s moons to explore Callisto, Europa and Ganymede.
The mission will end with an extended study of Ganymede and in 2034 it will become the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than Earth’s.
The talk at Space Park Leicester will introduce the ESA JUICE mission and the challenges of a mission to the Jupiter system.
The speakers will discuss the objectives for the planet Jupiter itself and explore the methods for detecting the oceans of the Galilean moon using these space missions.
It will also focus on how the electromagnetic interaction between the moons and Jupiter’s rotating magnetosphere can help to reveal the watery secrets that lie beneath their surfaces.
It will take place from 12.30pm to 2.00pm on Tuesday 25 April, and will include a light lunch.
Admission to the event is free but anyone who wants to attend should reserve their place.