NASA’s Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft was able to take new images of the moon Ganymede during a close flight on Monday. The natural satellite, the largest moon in the solar system, has an icy surface that covers an interior of rock and iron.
Juno had a little less than half an hour to observe Ganymede up close; it was time enough for five pictures if all went well. The image above – taken with the JunoCam image with visible light – covers about 1 km from the moon per. Pixel. Shards of icy plains, pockmarks of massive craters and long stripes (possibly of tectonic origin, according to NASA) are visible in this intriguing view.
“This is the closest a spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation,” said Scott Bolton, chief scientist of Juno at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a NASA Press Release. “We will take our time before drawing any scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this celestial wonder – the only moon in our solar system that is larger than the planet Mercury.”
The photo was taken with the green filter on JunoCam; there are still images that use the camera’s red and blue filters, which together give us a color portrait of Ganymede. Also released today is a photo of Ganymede’s dark side taken by Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit navigation camera.
Apart from these surface views of Jupiter’s moon – one of the planet’s 79 known satellites – NASA team expects data from the probe on Ganymede’s upper atmosphere and its magnetosphere. Although at first glance it looks a lot like the Earth’s moon, this sphere is much more complex: it is the only moon known to have a magnetic field, and scientists also believe that it has a salt sea underground.
More: NASA Spacecraft has a close encounter with Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede