Tiny probes to investigate Jupiter's atmosphere
Planetary scientists are considering firing a swarm of tiny probes - each with a different sensor - into the clouds of Jupiter and grab data as they fall before burning up in the giant planet's atmosphere.
Toronto: Planetary scientists are considering firing a swarm of tiny probes - each with a different sensor - into the clouds of Jupiter and grab data as they fall before burning up in the giant planet's atmosphere.
The probes would last an estimated 15 minutes.
Transmitting 20 megabits of data over 15 minutes would be sufficient to allow scientists to get a picture of a large part of the atmosphere of the planet.
"Much smaller probes, made possible by the miniaturisation of electronics, cameras and other instruments, would survive the fall through Jupiter's atmosphere for much longer without a parachute," said John Moores from the Centre for Research in the Earth and Space Sciences (CRESS) at the York University in Canada.
"Our concept shows that for a small enough probe, you can strip off the parachute and still get enough time in the atmosphere to take meaningful data while keeping the relay close and the data rate high," Moores added.
Orbiting and flyby probes have provided astronomers with a lot of information about the "surface" of the outer planets and the moons that orbit those planets.
However, probing deep within their atmospheres requires penetrating the dense clouds to obtain meaningful data.
Tiny satellites that weigh less than one kg, known as micro, nano and cube satellites, are already being used in the Earth's orbit for a wide range of applications.
The mission platform has been named SMARA for SMAll Reconnaissance of Atmospheres and gets its name from the wind-borne fruit of the maple tree, the samara.
The SMARA mission may help address various aspects of planetary science.
"Additionally, Jupiter is under constant bombardment from small bodies, such as asteroids, and again, understanding its atmosphere would shed new light on the nature of these," the authors said.
The report appeared in the International Journal Space Science and Engineering.