May 16, 2022

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The Juno spacecraft takes a great picture of Jupiter (and two of its moons!)

The Juno spacecraft takes a great picture of Jupiter (and two of its moons!)

Three worlds in one picture, one of which can harbor life.

The Juno spacecraft captured a stunning image of the gas giant during its 39th flyby of Jupiter. And if you zoom in for a moment, you’ll encounter two more surprises in the picture: the moons Io and Europa are also on them!

Southern Hemisphere
Juno registered in January, but NASA has only released the result now. Juno was about 61,000 km from the tops of Jupiter’s cloud at the time of the shooting. By the way, Jupiter is completely invisible; Only the southern hemisphere is shown in the image.

two moons
To the right of the gas giant, two moons can be seen: Io and Europa. It’s just shadows in these photos, but that’s about to change. For example, Juno will fly close to Europe in September. The probe will approach the lunar surface up to 355 kilometers and – using various instruments – make more detailed observations. This will undoubtedly provide new insights, because the last time a space probe approached Europe was several decades behind us.

Sightings of Europa are more than welcome, as this moon has emerged in recent years as one of the best candidates for extraterrestrial life. Underneath the icy moon’s surface is said to be a global ocean that may harbor life. To further investigate this matter, several missions will be sent to Europe in the coming years. For example, ESA will launch a file Jupiter Ice Explorer satellites And he wants NASA after a year Europe Clipper launch. The data Juno can gather about Europe will certainly come in handy.

If you zoom in on the images, two moons appear on the right: Io (left) and Europa (right). By the way, Juno did not deliver this photo to Earth in this form. Juno sends raw images back to Earth that are processed and analyzed here – mostly by civilian researchers. This recording has been edited by Andrea Luck. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

Io
But it is not only Europe that is enjoying additional interest from Juno. Moon Io is also being studied in more detail by spacecraft. Juno will pass the moon in late 2023 and early 2024.

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Expanded and extended mission
Observations of Jupiter’s moons are very interesting, but surprisingly, they were not originally part of the Juno mission. The spacecraft is primarily designed to investigate Jupiter. But in early 2021, NASA decided to expand its mission goals and also deploy Juno to study three of Jupiter’s moons — plus Europa and Io, including Ganymede — and the gas giant’s rings.

Juno’s mission has been extended by 42 orbits around Jupiter. During those additional orbits, Juno flies not only through three of Jupiter’s moons, but also near the north pole of the gas giant. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI.

Juno will certainly have until September 2025 to verify the objectives of the extended mission. Not bad for a probe that should have died in 2018. It’s funny that the fact that Juno is still around is due in part to a major setback. NASA wanted to put the probe into a relatively close orbit around Jupiter, but it was unsuccessful; The probe continued in the wide elliptical orbit that NASA had planned to place it temporarily after reaching Jupiter. However, this setback also turned out to have advantages, for example, Juno was exposed to significantly less harmful radiation in this orbit, which means that the probe can last much longer. “We found that Jupiter’s radioactive environment in this orbit is much less extreme than expected,” principal investigator Scott Bolton said in 2018, when the mission was extended to summer 2021. “And this is not only beneficial for our spacecraft, but also for our instruments and data quality.” So the second extension took place in 2021. Thus, for the next four years, we will be able to regularly enjoy beautiful images and new insights, about both Jupiter and some of its most interesting moons.

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