NASA’s Juno space probe, orbiting Jupiter, was able to capture new images of the moon Ganymede during a close flyby. This natural satellite, which is the largest moon in the solar system, has an icy surface that covers an interior of rock and iron.
Juno had just under half an hour to observe Ganymede up close, enough time to take five images, if all went well. The image above, taken with the JunoCam visible light imager, covers about 0.97 kilometers of the moon per pixel. Stripes of icy plains, massive crater marks, and long stripes (possibly tectonic in origin, according to NASA) are visible in this exciting sight.
“This is the closest a spacecraft has gotten to this gigantic moon in a generation,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, United States, at a release from NASA. “We are going to take our time before drawing scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this heavenly treasure, the only moon in our solar system larger than the planet Mercury.”
The image was captured using the green filter on the JunoCam. Images using the camera’s red and blue filters are yet to be seen, which when put together will give us a color portrait of Ganymede. They have also released an image of Ganymede’s dark side, taken by Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit navigation camera.
In addition to these views of the surface of Jupiter’s moon, one of the planet’s 79 known satellites, the NASA team awaits data from the probe on Ganymede’s upper atmosphere and its magnetosphere. Although it looks a lot like Earth’s Moon at first glance, this orb is much more complex: it is the only known moon to have a magnetic field, and scientists also believe it has a magnetic field. ocean salty underground.