NASA’s Juno spacecraft obtained the first photo of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, when it flew over the icy moon on Monday. Juno is the only spacecraft to fly over Ganymede in two decades. NASA shared two photos on its Instagram, which allows us to get closer and more detailed understanding of the surface of the only moon in the solar system larger than Mercury. These photos-one taken from the JunoCam imager of the Jupiter orbiter and the other from its stellar reference unit star camera-reveal finer details, including craters and distinctly different Jupiters Three dark and bright terrain.
The space agency stated that the Juno flyby was the closest a spacecraft has approached Jupiter’s giant moon in 20 years. “At the closest approach, Juno was 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) from the surface of Ganymede,” NASA said in an Instagram post.
In May 2000, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft as low as 162 miles (261 kilometers) from the surface of the Galileo satellite produced detailed images.
Scott Bolton, principal researcher of the Juno at the Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, said that this is the closest spacecraft to the giant satellite in a generation, adding that it will take time for them to draw any scientific conclusions. “Before that, we can simply marvel at this celestial spectacle,” he was quoted in a NASA blog post.
The spacecraft’s JunoCam visible light imager uses its green filter to capture almost the entire side of the moon covered by water ice. NASA said on its website that later when a version of the same image appears and includes the camera’s red and blue filters, imaging experts will be able to provide a color portrait of Ganymede. The spacecraft will send more images in the coming days.
Juno’s stellar reference unit navigation camera acquired images of the dark side of the giant moon during its flyby on June 7.
Heidi Becker, head of radiation monitoring at Juno at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that the conditions for collecting this image are very suitable for the low-light camera they use. “So this is different from the surface JunoCam sees in direct sunlight. It will be interesting to see what the two teams can piece together,” Becker said.
Juno’s encounter with Jupiter’s moons promises to gain insights into its composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and ice crust. It is expected that it will also provide measurement results of the radiation environment, which will benefit future missions to the Jupiter system.
According to the information on NASA’s Juno overview page, Juno’s main goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter.
The space agency said that under its dense cloud cover, Jupiter protects the secrets of the basic processes and conditions that control the solar system during the formation of the solar system. This planet can also provide key knowledge for understanding planetary systems found around other stars.