Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft will arrive at Venus later today, and will enter orbit around the planet. The box-shaped orbiter will make observations from an elliptical orbit, from a distance of between 300 and 80,000 kilometers (186 to 49,600 miles), looking for — among other things — signs of lightning and active volcanoes.
The Akatsuki probe (Japanese for “Dawn”) has been traveling for six months, and launched along with the IKAROS solar sail mission. The timing for the orbit insertion burn is Dec. 6 at about 6:50 p.m. EST (2350 GMT), which is early Tuesday morning Japan Standard Time.
There’s also an English-version website that is providing some updates.
Twitters can follow Akatsuki. (in Japanese — Google translate works well on the spacecraft’s Twitter homepage.)
This is Japan’s first mission to Venus. The Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, hopes the spacecraft will work for two years studying Venus’s clouds and weather in order to gain a better understanding of how the planet’s atmosphere evolves over time.