Using energy from the sun, NASA's Juno probe broke a record this week, becoming the farthest solar-powered emissary from Earth, officials said.
The spacecraft, which is set to reach Jupiter on July 4 of this year, surpassed the record of the European Space Agency's comet-chasing Rosetta probe when it racked up a distance of 493 million miles from Earth on Wednesday, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Rick Nybakken, Juno's project manager, said since Jupiter is five times farther from the sun than Earth, the solar rays that reach that far out are 25 times weaker than the ones received on Earth.
"While our massive solar arrays will be generating only 500 watts when we are at Jupiter, Juno is very efficiently designed, and it will be more than enough to get the job done," he said.
The four-ton Juno launched in 2011 and is equipped with three 30-foot-long solar arrays, along with 18,696 individual solar cells, to help it make the most of the solar power it receives on its journey. Once it reaches Jupiter, Juno will orbit the planet a total of 33 times, coming as close as 3,100 feet above its cloud tops. NASA hopes the mission will help scientists learn more about Jupiter's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
Rosetta previously held the record for the furthest solar-powered emissary in space when it hit an astounding 492 million miles from Earth in October 2012 as it approached comet 67P.