Jupiter: Project 24


Project Abstract:

Four hundred years ago Galileo Galilei turned his telescope on the planet Jupiter, and his discoveries changed forever the way humanity thinks about the Universe.

In 2009 we are commemorating this 400th anniversary in the International Year of Astronomy, the IYA. To celebrate Galileo’s discoveries, on the 22nd of November we will undertake the Jupiter: Project24 , 24 hours of continuous radio observation of the planet Jupiter using the radio telescopes of NASA’s Deep Space Network, the DSN.

This is a worldwide antenna network which supports the exploration of the solar system. It consists of three deep-space communications facilities, one at Goldstone in California’s Mojave Desert, one near Madrid in Spain, and one near Canberra, Australia. This strategic placement permits constant observation of spacecraft as the Earth rotates and makes the DSN the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system in the world. A fraction of the network time is also made available for radio astronomy projects under an agreement between NASA and Host Countries.

The radio emission from Jupiter comes from both the thermal emission from the planet plus the non-thermal emission of high-energy electrons trapped in Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Due to a misalignment of Jupiter’s magnetic and rotation axes, the non-thermal intensity varies as the planet’s magnetosphere rotates, and is most apparent at frequencies between 1 and 5 GHz. The rotation period is close to 9 hours 55 minutes, so we will see almost two and a half rotations.

This is the first time that such a long continuous series of ground-based radio observations of Jupiter at a single frequency has been undertaken in an organised way. The goal of the 24 Jupiter project is to search for possible non-thermal variability from other causes, such as variations in solar activity, and possible changes from a remnant of the big impact spotted by an amateur astronomer near Canberra in July 2009.

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