While Jupiter has been known since ancient times, the first detailed observations of this planet were made by Galileo Galilei in 1610 with a small telescope. More recently, this planet has been visited by passing spacecraft, orbiters and probes.

Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 were the first to fly by Jupiter in the 1970s, and since then we’ve sent Galileo to orbit the gas giant and drop a probe into its atmosphere. Cassini took detailed photos of Jupiter on its way to neighboring Saturn, as did New Horizons on its quest for Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which arrived in the Jovian system in July 2016, is currently studying the giant planet from orbit.

Significant Events

Significant Events

  • 1610: Galileo Galilei makes the first detailed observations of Jupiter.
  • 1973: Pioneer 10 becomes the first spacecraft to cross the asteroid belt and fly past Jupiter.
  • 1979: Voyager 1 and 2 discover Jupiter's faint rings, several new moons and volcanic activity on Io's surface.
  • 1992: Ulysses swung by Jupiter on Feb. 8, 1992. The giant planet's gravity bent the spacecraft's flight path southward and away from the ecliptic plane, putting the probe into a final orbit that would take it over the sun's south and north poles.
  • 1994: Astronomers observe as pieces of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collide with Jupiter's southern hemisphere.
  • 1995-2003: The Galileo spacecraft drops a probe into Jupiter's atmosphere and conducts extended observations of Jupiter and its moons and rings.
  • 2000: Cassini makes its closest approach to Jupiter at a distance of approximately 6.2 million miles (10 million kilometers), taking a highly detailed true color mosaic photo of the gas giant.
  • 2007: Images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, on the way to Pluto, show new perspectives on Jupiter's atmospheric storms, the rings, volcanic Io, and icy Europa.
  • 2009: On 20 July, almost exactly 15 years after fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy slammed into Jupiter, a comet or asteroid crashes into the giant planet's southern hemisphere.
  • 2011: Juno launches to examine Jupiter's chemistry, atmosphere, interior structure and magnetosphere.
  • 2016: NASA's Juno spacecraft arrives at Jupiter, conducting an in-depth investigation of the planet's atmosphere, deep structure and magnetosphere for clues to its origin and evolution.
Notable Explorers



10 Careers That Explore Space



Astronauts pave the way for human exploration beyond our Earth. They are pilots, scientists, engineers, teachers, and more.


Project Manager

Project managers guide missions from concept to completion, working closely with team members to accomplish what they set out to do.  


Rover Camera Operator

A camera payload uplink lead writes software commands that tell a rover what pictures to take.

The first thing that fired my imagination for planetary science was when the NASA Voyager spacecraft discovered active volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io.



Melding science with design, artists create everything from large-scale installations to the NASA posters hanging in your bedroom. 


Media Specialist

Media specialists tells stories across social media and help feature missions and people on TV and in films, books, magazines, and news sites. 



Writers/producers capture the incredible stories of NASA's missions and people and share them with the world. 



Administrators and directors work out of NASA headquarters, prioritizing science questions and seeking to expand the frontiers of discovery.



Whether it's introducing kids to space or teaching physics to PhD candidates, educators help share their knowledge with the public.



Engineers design and build all types of machines, from what a spacecraft looks like to the software that directs where a rover goes each day. 



From an astrophysicist to a volcanologist, scientists of all types pose questions and help find answers to the mysteries of our universe.

The important thing about being a scientist or an engineer is learning how to think critically, learning how to be creative, learning problem solving and learning how to learn.

Explore in 3D

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Explore in 3D—Eyes on the Solar System

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