Spacecraft carrying U. Iowa instrument to reach Jupiter July 4th - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Spacecraft carrying U. Iowa instrument to reach Jupiter July 4th

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The Waves instrument - it's one small step for the University of Iowa, and one giant leap for anyone who has ever wondered about Jupiter's electric fields.

Research scientist Bill Kurth gave us the rundown.

"If you want to understand the origin of the planets, the origin of the Earth," Kurth said, "you really have to start with Jupiter, 'cause that's where all the mass is."

Waves is attached to the Juno spacecraft, which NASA sent to Jupiter in 2011.

It'll reach the planet July 4th.

"We've been on about a 1.7 billion mile trip to this point," said Kurth, who also serves as Waves' lead co-investigator.

Waves is the first ever instrument to study Jupiter's electric fields.

On the spacecraft, Waves' antennas are nine feet long.

Kurth says they'll help us learn about Jupiter's electric waves and auroras.

"The University of Iowa experiment on Juno will actually measure those waves, and will try to understand the generation of them," he said.

The auroras, which produce the Northern Lights on Earth, are one thousand times more intense on Jupiter.

The Waves antennas will measure that energy for the first time.

And the designers of Waves can't wait for the new discoveries.

"We've never been there, we don't know exactly what to expect, so we're all very excited about going there," said Kurth.

Juno will orbit Jupiter 37 times over a year and a half period to study the planet.

In February of 2018, it will purposely crash into Jupiter's atmosphere.

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