NASA spacecraft due to reach Jupiter after 5-year long journey from Earth

Juno is expected to get closer to the giant planet than any other probe to date

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Image credit: NASA/JPL

A spacecraft is due to reach Jupiter early tomorrow after completing a five-year, 2.8 billion kilometre journey from Earth.

It is hoped Juno will get closer to the giant planet than any other probe - reaching 5,000km above the cloud tops at its closest approach.

NASA says the mission's goal is to improve our understanding of Jupiter's formation and evolution.

"The spacecraft will investigate the planet's origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere and magnetosphere," the space agency says.

The mission has cost an estimated $1.13 billion.

Juno left Earth on August 5th 2011, and is expected to enter Jupiter's orbit in the early hours of tomorrow morning Irish time.

Space journalist Sarah Cruddas says "we don't know exactly" how Jupiter formed or what it is made of, and explained that scientists are hoping to find out if the planet has a rocky core:

Hubble Space Telescope recently captured 'stunning' auroras in the atmosphere of Jupiter, with the images released last week.

Image: NASA, ESA, and J. Nichols (University of Leicester)