NASA’s Juno spacecraft has 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 flight on June 7, Juno came within 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) of the surface of Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede and took two images from Jupiter orbiter’s JunoCam imager and its Stellar Reference Unit star camera.
The photos show Ganymede’s surface in detail, with craters, clearly distinct dark and bright terrain, and elongated structural features possibly linked to tectonic faults.
It is the closest spacecraft to this giant moon in this generation, Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said in a statement.
“We are going to take our time before drawing any scientific conclusions, but until then we can marvel at this celestial phenomenon,” he said.
Using its green filter, the spacecraft’s JunoCam visible-light imager captured almost the entire part of the Moon surrounded by water-ice. Later, when versions of the same image are down, incorporating the camera’s red and blue filters, imaging specialists will be able to provide a color picture of Ganymede.
In addition, Juno’s stellar reference unit provided a black-and-white picture of Ganymede’s dark side (the opposite side of the Sun), bathed in the dim light scattered by Jupiter. The spacecraft will send more pictures from its Ganymede flyby in the coming days. Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury and is the only moon in the Solar System that has its own magnetosphere.