NASA’s Jupiter spacecraft just got a rare close-up of an icy world.
The Juno spacecraft made the closest pass in 22 years of Jupiteris the icy moon Europe on Thursday, September 29, offering the best view of the ocean world from NASA Galileo spacecraft stole it in 2000.
Flying just 352 kilometers above the surface of Europe, the two-hour flyby was among the three closest glimpses of the icy world. The last similar opinion we received dates back to January 3, 2000 with Galileo, officials of Nasathe Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of Southern California said in a statement.
“The rugged terrain features are easily visible, including large boulders casting shadows, while light and dark ridges and troughs curve across the surface. The oblong pit near the terminator could be a gradient impact crater” , JPL officials said. wrote on Juno flyover images (opens in a new tab) Thursday (September 29).
Video: NASA unveils the most stunning view ever of Jupiter’s moon Europe
With geological data from the flyby just beginning to trickle in, officials have called Juno’s rare look key to establishing observations for NASA’s next Europa Clipper mission, which will launch in just two years to study the icy moon. .
“Europa Clipper will study the atmosphere, surface and interior of the moon, with its main scientific objective being to determine if there are places below the surface of Europa that could harbor life,” JPL said about of the mission, which is expected to reach the Jupiter system in 2030.
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As the sixth largest moon in solar systemEuropa is similar in size to Earthbut has a very different formation and evolutionary history. Europa has a massive ice crust covering an ocean that researchers believe may be capable of supporting Earth-like life.
During its flyby, Juno collected some of the highest resolution images of the moon at 0.6 miles or 1 km per pixel, JPL said, along with information about the environment, atmosphere, surface and the inner structure of the moon.
In images, in pictures: Chaos reigns in detailed views of Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon
“The science team will be looking to see if Europa’s surface characteristics have changed over the past two decades,” Candy Hansen, a Juno co-investigator who is leading the planning for JunoCam (which obtained the images), told the Planetary Science Institute. in Tucson, Arizona.
Data from Juno’s microwave radiometer could be particularly important for future missions such as Clipper, as it could help identify some potentially habitable “pockets” of liquid water just below the massive ice sheet.
Scientists used the flyby to slightly alter Juno’s trajectory, as it is now expected to make a single orbit of Jupiter in 38 Earth days (up from 43 previously). Flyovers of the Jovian Volcanic Moon Io are expected in 2023 and 2024, if the mission can continue to survive the intense radiation belts near Jupiter.
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