It’s time to get close to Mr. Ganymede.
On Monday, NASA’s Juno spacecraft passed within 645 miles of Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter’s 79 known moons. and is the largest moon in the entire solar system It was Ganymede’s first close examination. Since the previous NASA rover Galileo has passed in December 2000.
On Tuesday, NASA released two images from the flyby. which reveals a crater with incredible detail. Possible tectonic faults and clearly bright and dark landscapes.
One shot from the JunoCam main camera captured Ganymede most of the day. For now, the image is in black and white. But when the same additional view, taken through the red and blue filters, was returned from the spacecraft. Those images can then be combined into a color image.
The second image was taken by a navigation camera called the Stellar Reference Unit, which was able to operate in low light and provide a clear night vision of Ganymede as Juno flew by.
Heidi Becker, head of the Juno mission’s radiation monitoring unit, said: “It will be fun to see what the two teams can piece together.”
The spacecraft will send back observations in the coming days.
Juno, which arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, is completing its main mission to explore the depths of the largest planet orbiting the sun. It has been discovered that storms such as the Great Red Spot penetrate deep into the gaseous atmosphere of giant planets. And Jupiter’s core is larger and more diffuse than expected.
But instead of ending the mission by sending Juno on a death dive to Jupiter, NASA has extended the mission until 2025. Juno will now make 42 additional Jupiter orbits, and some of those orbits will include the flyby of the Jupiter. Ganymede and two other circles, the moon, Io and Europa.
“We are very fortunate that the spacecraft is in good health,” said lead mission investigator Scott Bolton. “And be able to produce such great science. all results and amazing images over the years.”
Ganymede, more than 3,200 miles wide, is larger than Mercury and is the only moon large enough to create its own magnetic field. These are magnetic bubbles that trap and divert charged particles from the sun.
Dr Bolton said “We have all the equipment. It is likely to be better equipped to measure Ganymede’s magnetic field and Jupiter’s magnetic field interaction than any spacecraft has ever seen.”
The data Juno collects will aid in future missions. Next year, the European Space Agency will launch JUICE, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, which will make multiple flybys of the three large moons Ganymede, Europa and Callisto before entering. Orbit around Ganymede in 2032
Another NASA mission, the Europa Clipper, will launch later this decade. And it will focus on Europa, one of the most interesting worlds for planetary scientists searching for life elsewhere in the solar system. Europa has a deep ocean beneath the ice-covered surface. The heat from the moon’s core may provide enough energy for life to inhabit the waters.
“We’ll fill in the gaps,” said Dr Bolton.
Jupiter’s immense gravity has stabilized Juno’s orbit until it now approaches Jupiter in the northern hemisphere. That’s not ideal for partial observations during the main mission, but it will now allow planetary scientists to better see Jupiter’s North Pole and the region’s mysterious storms.