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NASA launched its Juno probe on August 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission will be a meeting of mythological mates, as Juno is named after the queen of the Roman gods and has been sent to enter orbit around the planet named after Juno's husband Jupiter.
The planetary probe left Earth carried by an Atlas 5–Centaur rocket. An hour after liftoff it jettisoned the Centaur upper stage, which gave it its final boost, to proceed toward Jupiter alone. It will reach the planet in 2016, where it will settle into orbit and gather data about the gas giant's magnetic and gravitational fields and water content. Scientists think Jupiter was the first planet to form in our solar system, so its strong gravitational field may still hold some of the primordial materials that were present in the solar system when the planets first took shape about 4.56 billion years ago. NASA astronomers hope Juno will detect some of those early ingredients, providing clues to how Jupiter and the other planets were born.
View a slide show of the spacecraft and launch, featuring several pictures by photographer Ken Kremer.