Juno has immortalized the immense mammoth moon in remarkable detail. Take a quick look!
A few days ago, the time had come: the Juno spacecraft flew past Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. And it was an exciting event. The probe flew closer to the moon than any other spacecraft in more than 20 years, giving Juno a beautiful glimpse of this icy sphere.
More about Ganymede
Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system with a diameter of 5,262 kilometers. The moon is even bigger than the smallest planet in our solar system: Mercury. Ganymede is also the only moon in our solar system with its own magnetic field. The moon is covered with a thick crust of ice and may contain a subterranean ocean.
During the fly-by, Juno captured images with the JunoCam (the camera that previously captured fantastic images of Jupiter) and its Stellar Reference Unit (the camera that keeps the spacecraft on course). And NASA has now received and released the first two photos. In the images, the surface of Jupiter’s largest moon shows off in remarkable detail, including its craters, bright and dark terrain and tall, structural features that may be related to Ganymede’s tectonics.
In the image above, the photo taken with the JunoCam can be admired. The image resolution is approximately 1 kilometer per pixel. Using a green filter, Juno captured almost an entire side of the moon. Later, when researchers also throw a red and blue filter over it, a real color portrait of Ganymede will appear.
Black and white picture
As mentioned, during his flyby, Juno also had the navigation camera called Stellar Reference Unit at the ready. And with this camera, Juno captured the dark side of the moon. This side is bathed in faint light scattered from Jupiter. “So this is a different part of the surface than what is seen by the JunoCam in direct sunlight,” explains researcher Heidi Becker. The photo can be seen below. The image resolution is between 600 to 900 meters per pixel.
In the coming days, Juno will send more images of his flyby down Ganymede to Earth. Then all the images will be compared with the pictures taken earlier by Galileo and Voyager of Ganymede. It remains to be seen whether the surface of the moon has changed much in recent decades. And whether, for example, more craters have been added. That in turn could provide more insight into how often impacts occur on the moons in the outer regions of our solar system.
But Juno didn’t just skim past the largest moon in our solar system for some great shots. The meeting between the two is also expected to provide more insight into Ganymede’s composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere and ice shell. In addition, Juno has made some measurements of the radiation environment that will benefit future missions to Jupiter.
But more on that later. First, the researchers reminisce about this moment of success. “No spacecraft has come so close to Ganymede in a generation,” said Juno study leader Scott Bolton. “We are going to take our time before drawing scientific conclusions. But until then, we will marvel at this heavenly miracle.”