Shuttle space trips may be over, but spacecraft launches are still going on, and on August 5th, NASA launched the spacecraft Juno, which will explore Jupiter's secrets. Astronomers think that the presence of Jupiter may help explain how the Earth came to exist.
Jupiter is huge--the rest of our solar system would fit inside it, with room to spare. Scientists think that large planets like this, in an outer orbit, absorb some of the blows from asteroids that might otherwise destroy smaller, inner planets (like Earth), so they are on the lookout for solar systems that contain Jupiter-like planets.
The planet is so big that its "red spot"--which is actually a hurricane that has lasted for hundreds of years--is more that twice the diameter of Earth. Jupiter has 63 moons, one of which is larger than Mercury. Scientists think one of these moons may harbor life. Astronomers think it holds the secret of the origin of our solar system.
In the July 28th edition of the Los Angeles Times, Scott Gold quotes astronomer Scott Gold as saying, "We are after the recipe for planet-making, To get the list of ingredients--this is the place." Four and a half billion years ago, the sun formed when a giant cloud of gas and dust collapsed under its own gravity. The sun sucked up most of it, and the rest turned into our solar system. But MOST of them wound up inside Jupiter. Because Jupiter is so big, it was able to retain most of its original features, while other planets shed theirs over time. Thus Jupiter is a record of the birth of the planets. If we can analyze the elements that make up our biggest planet, we'll learn a lot about the Big Bang.
Gold quotes astronomer Scott Bolton as saying, "It ties right back to us. These are the elements of life, the elements that Earth is made out of. How Jupiter managed to get enriched in these elements is right at the essence of how we got here. Where did we come from? That's what it comes down to.
"Now we just have to wait five years until we get to Jupiter. You have to have a lot of patience in this business."
Why do we have to send an unmanned craft to Jupiter--why can't we go ourselves? In 1998, a mysterious man that Whitley Strieber calls the Master of the Key burst into his hotel room in Toronto and told him all kinds of things he didn't know--but when he checked them out later, he found out they were TRUE. One of the few things that Whitley could NOT check out was MOTKE's provocative statement that we are stuck on this planet because the parents of the child who would have given us the ability to travel into space was killed in the holocaust! The new edition of The Key, with a foreword that talks about how many of his statements later turned out to be true, is in bookstores NOW. You can also get a copy from the Whitley Strieber Collection--and if you do that, it will come with a autographed bookplate that Whitley designed!