January 10 - 16, 2000
Galileo Continues to Orbit Jupiter
Galileo continues to orbit around Jupiter this week, traveling away from the heart of the system after completing a close flyby of Jupiter's icy moon Europa last week. The spacecraft spends the week returning data acquired during its November flyby of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io. The data are stored on the spacecraft's onboard tape recorder. Data playback is interrupted on Friday so the spacecraft can perform regular maintenance on its propulsion systems.
During data playback, the spacecraft computer retrieves the stored data from the tape recorder, then processes and packages the data, and subsequently transmits the data to Earth. Here on Earth, the large
antennas of the Deep Space Network capture Galileo's radio transmissions and send them to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California, for ground processing, and, ultimately, delivery to the science community. The large antennas of the Deep Space Network are located near Madrid, Spain, Canberra, Australia, and Goldstone, California.
The data returned this week are taken from a 3-hour high resolution recording of the Io plasma torus performed by Galileo's suite of Fields and Particles instruments. The Fields and Particles instruments are comprised of the Dust Detector, Energetic Particle Detector, Heavy Ion Counter, Magnetometer, Plasma Detector, and Plasma Wave instrument. The recording gathered data from 6 Jupiter radii (429,000 kilometers or 267,000 miles) above Jupiter's cloud tops down to an altitude of 5 Jupiter radii (357,000
kilometers or 222,000 miles), making it the third deepest set of torus measurements of Galileo's entire mission to date.
The Io torus is a doughnut-shaped region of space with its inner edge bounded by Io's orbit. It contains intense plasma and radiation activity with strong magnetic and electric fields. The torus is believed to be constantly supplied by volcanic activity on Io. The data acquired by the recording will be used to understand the structure and dynamics of the plasma, dust, and electric and magnetic fields present in the torus region. The data will also shed light on the overall dynamics of the Jovian magnetosphere.