This Week on Galileo December 10-16, 2001

Status Report From: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Posted: Monday, December 10, 2001

The Galileo spacecraft is back on its way in towards Jupiter for the 33rd time (34 if you include our initial approach), having passed the milestone of spending a full 6 years in orbit! Seems like only yesterday ...

On Wednesday, the Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS) instrument executes a calibration activity. A special Radiometric Calibration Target plate mounted on the spacecraft is heated to a fixed and known temperature, and as this temperature-sensitive instrument views the plate the signal levels can be compared with previous calibrations to see how the sensitivity of the instrument may have changed over time. On Thursday, the monthly maintenance activity is performed for the on-board tape recorder.

For the rest of the week, playback from the October 15 flyby of Io continues, returning data from the Solid State Imaging camera (SSI), NIMS, and the Fields and Particles instruments.

Pictures expected from SSI this week include a several-hour study of the evolution of the clouds around a hot spot in Jupiter's atmosphere. Six years ago, in December 1995, Galileo dropped an instrumented probe into the atmosphere of the giant planet, providing scientists with our first direct measurements of this environment. That probe happened to enter Jupiter's atmosphere in just such a hot spot. Regular measurements of these features during the Galileo orbiter's subsequent tour have greatly added to our understanding of their nature.

SSI will also be playing back pictures of the edge of the Gossamer Ring of Jupiter. This ring is an extremely diffuse collection of particles that circles the planet outside of the main ring system, and extends out to 153,000 kilometers (95,300 miles) above Jupiter's cloud tops, which is beyond the orbit of the tiny moon Amalthea.

NIMS will be returning a global observation of the temperatures of Jupiter's atmosphere. This observation will also help to determine cloud heights, chemical compositions, and particle sizes in the clouds.

Fields and Particles instrument data were collected as part of a survey of continuous data sampling during the encounter period. When ground communications antennas are not scheduled to track Galileo, allowing return of the data in real time, the instrument measurements are stored in on-board computer memory, and periodically that memory is copied onto the tape for later playback. Now is the time for that playback.

In addition, the steady collection of real-time data by the Magnetometer, the Dust Detector, and the Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer continues throughout the week.

For more information on the Galileo spacecraft and its mission to Jupiter, please visit the Galileo home page at one of the following URL's:

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