Madrid, 9 (Europe Press)
NASA has published the first two images of a flyby of just over 1,000 km by the Juno space probe on June 7 from Ganymede, the largest lunar site of Jupiter and the Solar System.
The images, one from the orbiter’s JunoCam imager and the other from the Stellar Reference Unit camera, show the surface in great detail, including craters, clearly differentiated bright and dark terrain, and tall structural features that may be related to tectonic faults.
“This is the closest spacecraft to this giant moon in a generation,” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said in a statement. “We’ll take our time before drawing scientific conclusions, but until then we can be amazed at this celestial wonder: the only moon in our solar system is bigger than Mercury.”
Using its green filter, the spacecraft’s visible-light JunoCam imager captured nearly the entire side of the moon covered in water ice. Later, when copies of the same image are produced that include red and blue camera filters, imaging experts will be able to provide a color image of Ganymede. The image resolution is about 1 kilometer per pixel.
In addition, Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit, a navigational camera that maintains the spacecraft’s orientation, provided a black-and-white image of Ganymede’s dark side (the side opposite the Sun) bathed in faint light scattered by Jupiter. The image resolution ranges between 600 and 900 meters per pixel.
“The conditions in which we collected the image of the dark side of Ganymede were ideal for a low-light camera like ours, which is the stellar reference unit,” said Heidi Becker, Juno’s radiation monitoring leader at JPL. The surface seen by JunoCam in direct sunlight. It will be interesting to see what the two teams can rebuild.”
The spacecraft will send out more images of its flyby of Ganymede in the coming days. The encounter of the solar-powered spacecraft with the Jovian satellite is expected to yield information on its composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and ice sheet, while providing measurements of the radioactive environment that will benefit future missions of the Jovian system.