NASA’s Juno probe hovering low over Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, has been snapping the first close – ups of the frozen giant for more than two decades – and they’s breathtaking.
Juno zoomed as close as 1,038 kilometers from the icy surface of solar system largest moon Monday (June 7), giving the spacecraft only a 25-minute window to take pictures – long enough for five exposures – before it zips away on its 33rd orbit of Jupiter.
Two photos from flyby released by NASA on Tuesday (June 8) – one on Ganymede̵
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“This is the closest any spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation,” Juno chief scientist Scott Bolton, a physicist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement. “We will take our time before we draw any scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this heavenly wonder.”
NASA’s spacecraft Galileo captured the latest photos of the giant moon, which is the ninth largest object in the solar system more than 20 years ago. Before this came the only other detailed close-ups of the Voyager missions in the late 1970s.
First discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610, Ganymede is one of the gas giant Jupiter’s 79 moons. With a width of 3,270 miles (5,260 km), Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury and the only moon in our solar system with its own magnetic field.
The Juno science team will now search the new images for vital clues about the composition, the ionosphere (the upper part of an atmosphere where atoms are ionized by solar radiation), magnetic field, radiation environment and ice shell from the Jovian moon and examine whether any areas of the moon have become changed since our last clear look. The level of detail that Juno’s camera offers has allowed the team to take pictures with a resolution of approx. 1 to 2 km.
Launched almost a decade ago in August 2011, Juno has been orbiting Jupiter for five years, and the spacecraft is only a month away from completing its primary mission. NASA plans to keep the probe monitoring the stormy surface of Jupiter until 2025 with passes over two of the gas giant’s other large moons, Europa and Io, set up for 2023.
Originally published on WordsSideKick.com.