Juno's Jupiter mission may yield clues to Earth's origins

Jupiter Mission
Even for scientists versed in the grand scale of astronomy, it's never been easy to grasp the scope of Jupiter.

After all, you could fit every piece of the solar system other than the sun inside Jupiter — all the other planets, moons and asteroids — with plenty of room to spare. Jupiter has cannibalized 20 moons over the years and still has at least 63, one bigger than Mercury. Jupiter's "spot" is actually a hurricane, which has lasted for hundreds of years and is more than twice the diameter of Earth.

But Jupiter isn't just a forbidding ball of gas. Somewhere in there are the clues, scientists believe, to the origin of the solar system — and Earth. Starting the morning of Aug. 5, NASA will enter the launch period for the spacecraft Juno, which will begin an unprecedented exploration of Jupiter's profound secrets.

"We are after the recipe for planet-making. To get the list of ingredients — this is the place," said Scott Bolton, the mission's principal investigator and the director of space science at San Antonio's Southwest Research Institute.

Read More