Getting on Board the Red Eye: The Jupiter Experience

Photo Courtesy: NASA JPL
A simulated image of Jupiter from the surface of Europa.

Keenan Thungtrakul/Senior Reporter

The night of November 1 saw a sequel to last semester’s “The Mars Experience” with “The Jupiter Experience.” Hosted by Speaker Series host Marc Bernier, the event featured the return of three Embry-Riddle faculty that sat on the panel last semester: Jason Aufdenberg, Ashley Kehoe and Rev. David Keck. The panel was joined by Embry-Riddle’s Pep Band who opened the night with “Jupiter” from Gustav Holst’s suite, “The Planets,” and closed with iconic pieces from Star Wars.

Keenan Thungtrakul/The Avion Newspaper. Dr. Jason Aufdenburg, Dr. Ashley Kehoe, and Rev. David Keck discussed the significance of the planet Jupiter.

The planet Jupiter was first recorded in the 7th or 8th century BC. It is one of five planets that are visible to the naked eye. Named after the Roman “king of the gods,” this gas giant has a mass of roughly 300 Earths and orbits the Sun once every 11 years. A large storm the size of about three Earths wide rages in its southern hemisphere and has come to be called the “Great Red Spot.” It has 67 moons, 4 of which are the notable Galilean moons Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and Io. The most notable of the Galilean moons are Europa and Io. Europa has a very smooth, icy surface. There is a theory that there is a giant ocean underneath the crust of this moon. Missions are being proposed to investigate and possibly utilize the moon for future interstellar travel and planetary colonization in the distant future. Io is known for its impressive volcanism which is caused by massive tidal effects and gravitational play between Jupiter and the other Galilean moons. Some of Jupiter’s moons act as retrograde bodies, orbiting in the opposite direction, hinting at how they came into the Jupiter system.

Astrologically, Jupiter is dubbed “the planet of luck.” The planet rules higher learning and fuels optimism, ethics, morality, exploration and discovery in both the intellectual and spiritual realms. Jupiter sets up a search for answers, with a determination to find them even if it requires spanning immense distances. It may be the king of the planets, but it is also seen as an honorable mentor.

Multiple NASA spacecraft have paid a visit to this planet with the Juno mission being the latest. Juno is currently conducting science at Jupiter since its arrival back in July of 2016. The mission goal is to learn more about Jupiter’s origin and evolution to better understand the origin of the solar system. Specifically, the mission will determine which of the current theories on planet formation is correct or whether a new theory is needed, map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields, analyze it’s aurora and probe the atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, and other properties. The Galileo probe sent back information about Jupiter’s atmosphere back in 1995, and now Juno will take Galileo’s analysis a step further.

Why is Jupiter important? Its massive size helps maintain order and structure in the solar system, keeping away stray objects that may travel towards the inner planets and pose a collision threat. Its large gravity field provides additional delta-v for deep space exploration vessels seeking to venture to the outer planets or beyond. Jupiter was also the reason for Galileo’s famous battle against the Catholic Church over its geocentric world-view.

Is there a future for humanity at Jupiter? Perhaps. There is speculation about possibly colonizing the Galilean moons, the Trojan moons that orbit far enough away from the dangerous radiation field, or Lagrange points. Should the Sun start transitioning to the red giant phase of its life, Europa may serve as a potential human colony and weigh station for spacecraft bound for Saturn or beyond. This will not happen for at least another couple million years, so there is still time to develop the required technology.