NASA’s Juno spacecraft sent two images offering glimpses of an icy orbit after its closest flight to Jupiter’s largest moon in more than two decades. During the June 7 flight, Juno approached within 1,038 kilometers of the surface of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, and took two images of the JunoCam imager of the orbiter Jupiter and its stellar camera Stellar Reference Unit.
Photos show Ganymede’s surface in detail, with craters, clearly distinct dark and luminous terrain, and elongated structural features possibly related to tectonic faults. “It is the closest spacecraft to this giant moon of this generation,” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said in a statement.
Ganymede bigger than Mercury
“We’re going to take our time before drawing any scientific conclusions, but until then we can marvel at this celestial event,” Bolton said. Using its green filter, the spacecraft’s JunoCam visible light imager captured almost the entire portion of the Moon surrounded by water ice. Later, when versions of the same image fail, incorporating the camera’s red and blue filters, imaging specialists will be able to provide a color image of Ganymede.
Additionally, Juno’s stellar reference unit provided a black-and-white image of the dark side of Ganymede (the opposite side of the Sun), bathed in the dim light scattered by Jupiter. The spacecraft will send more photos of its overflight of Ganymede in the coming days. Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury and is the only moon in the solar system to have its own magnetosphere.