In November 1974, Pioneer 11 became the first spacecraft from Earth to visit Jupiter. Humans have likely been fascinated by this bright spot in...
In November 1974, Pioneer 11 became the first spacecraft from Earth to visit Jupiter. Humans have likely been fascinated by this bright spot in the sky since we started looking up to the heavens, and our oldest astronomical records show regular observations of this huge planet. Then early in 17th-century Italy, Galileo built his telescope and identified the Jovian bands along with four moving dots. Those are the moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
Clocking in at 383 Earth masses, Jupiter is the most massive member in the solar system, and NASA so far has sent five missions to study it. It’s a hard planet to visit, though: Aside from our Sun, Jupiter has the largest magnetic field in the solar system. Such an extreme radiation environment can easily fry life-sustaining electronics that get near it (“near” here meaning millions of miles). This magnetic field is so large, in fact, that if you could see it in visible light, it would appear as the size of the full moon in our sky—even though the giant planet itself is roughly 500 million miles from Earth.
This week we’ll tag along with a few different space missions to Jupiter, taking its grandeur from all angles and in unprecedented detail.
Eager to venture beyond Jupiter? Explore the full space collection here.