UI students attempt to send signal to Juno Probe

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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At approximately 2:21pm CDT Wednesday, NASA’s 2-year-old Juno spacecraft flew past Earth for a gravity assist that would slingshot the probe toward its July 4, 2016, destination: Jupiter.

The gravity assist propelled the spacecraft from 78,000 mph to 87,000 mph, passing Earth around 350 miles above the surface of South Africa.

UI research scientist Bill Kurth, who has been involved with the mission since its beginning, said the voyage will help scientists better understand the planet’s deep interior and origins.

Tony Rogers, a UI junior who is president of the UI Amateur Radio Club, said there was interest in seeing if they could identify a present signal from the instrument as well as if they could send a signal. More than 350 people in 18 countries and 40 states promised to help organize and send a signal simultaneously during Juno’s passing. The goal was to get the probe to say, “Hi.”

“The probe will send down data like it would normally,” he said. “We’re hoping to see bright dots at regular intervals. When we get the data down, we’ll know we got to say hi. We’ll know it heard us.”

Rogers said it is unknown as to whether the instrument received the signals or not. Results on if the signal was successful will be known sometimes between Friday and Oct. 14 at the earliest, he said.

Aboard the probe is the UI’s own technology, the Waves instrument, which is designed to examine Jupiter’s polar magnetosphere through measurement of radio and plasma waves, UI research engineer Donald Kirchner said.

“The natural radio waves that occur at Jupiter overlap with the frequencies we use hear to talk back and forth with on the radio,” he said. “The amateur radio pop can generate a signal that our instrument can detect.”

— by Emily Friese

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