NASA’s Juno spacecraft will fly within 1038 kilometers of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, on Monday (June 7).
Juno’s instruments will begin collecting data about three hours before the spacecraft’s closest approach, which will happen at 6:35 p.m. BST (1:35 a.m. EDT).
Juno, launched in August 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Florida to study Jupiter from Earth orbit, will provide insight into the moon’s composition and temperature.
The celestial event will be the closest a spacecraft has come to Ganymede since Galileo in May 2000.
With a diameter of 5,262 kilometers, Ganymede is larger than both Mercury and the dwarf planet Pluto.
Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system and the only moon with its own magnetic field.
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At 3,280 miles in diameter, Ganymede (pictured) is larger than both planet Mercury and dwarf planet Pluto. This image shows mosaic and geological maps of Ganymede, compiled with the best available imagery from NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and NASA’s Galileo spacecraft
HISTORY OF GANYMEDEDE
Since its discovery in January 1610, Ganymede has been the center of repeated observation, first by telescopes on Earth and later by flyby missions and spacecraft orbiting Jupiter.
These studies show a complex icy world whose surface is characterized by the striking contrast between the two main terrain types – the dark, very old areas with many craters and the lighter, somewhat younger (but still ancient) areas marked with extensive series of grooves and ridges.
With a diameter of 5,262 kilometers, Ganymede is larger than both the planet Mercury and the dwarf planet Pluto.
It is also the only satellite in the solar system known to have its own magnetosphere.
An interactive NASA tool provides real-time updates of Juno’s location as it approaches the natural satellite.
Juno will fly past Ganymede at nearly 12 miles per second (19 miles per second), meaning it will go from a bright spot to a visible disk and then back to a bright spot in about 25 minutes.
This gives the JunoCam imager aboard the craft just enough time to take five images of the moon.
“Flying so close will bring Ganymede’s exploration into the 21st century,” said Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.
“Juno carries with him a series of sensitive instruments capable of seeing Ganymede in a way that has never been possible before.”
Juno, a rotating solar-powered spacecraft, arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016 after a five-year journey.
It has three giant blades extending about 20 meters from its cylindrical, six-sided body.
Juno’s flyby will provide scientists with stunning images and insight into Ganymede’s composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere and icy shell.
Ganymede has three main layers – a sphere of metallic iron in the center (the core, which generates a magnetic field), a spherical shell of rock (mantle) surrounding the core, and an outer shell of mostly ice, about 497 miles thick, that surround both the rock shell and the core.
Together with the Ultraviolet Spectrograph (UVS) and Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instruments, Juno’s Microwave Radiometer’s (MWR) will look into the water ice crust of Ganymede and obtain data on its composition and temperature.
On its surface, the mysterious ice moon has large, bright areas with ridges and grooves that cut across older, darker terrains.
These striated areas are an indication that the moon has experienced dramatic upheavals in the distant past, according to NASA.
“The Ganymede ice shell has some light and dark areas, suggesting that some areas may be pure ice, while other areas contain dirty ice,” Bolton said.
MWR will conduct the first in-depth study of how the ice composition and structure varies with depth, leading to a better understanding of how the ice shell forms and the ongoing processes that return the ice to the ice over time. surface.’
Juno, a rotating solar-powered spacecraft, arrived at Jupiter in 2016 after a five-year journey (shown here in artist’s impression)
Juno’s measurements of the radiation environment near the moon will also benefit future missions to the ‘Jovian system’ (ie Jupiter, its rings and its moons).
Monday’s flight will be the closest a spacecraft has come to Ganymede since NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made its penultimate approach on May 20, 2000.
On this day, Galileo – which in 1995 became the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter – reached 1000 km from Ganymede.
Juno will continue his research on the solar system’s largest planet until September 2025, or until the end of the spacecraft’s life.
How NASA’s Juno Probe to Jupiter Will Reveal the Secrets of the Solar System’s Largest Planet
The Juno probe reached Jupiter in 2016 after traveling five years and 1.8 billion miles from Earth
The Juno probe reached Jupiter on July 4, 2016, after a five-year journey 2.8 billion miles (2.8 billion km) from Earth.
After a successful braking maneuver, it entered a long polar orbit and flew up to 5,000 km from the planet’s swirling cloud tops.
The probe skimmed just 4,200 km from the planet’s clouds once every two weeks — too close to provide global coverage in a single image.
No previous spacecraft has orbited this close to Jupiter, though two others have been sent to their destruction through its atmosphere.
To complete his risky mission, Juno survived a circuit-frying radiation storm generated by Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field.
The maelstrom of high-energy particles traveling at nearly the speed of light is the harshest radiative environment in the solar system.
To cope with the conditions, the spacecraft was protected with special radiation-hardened wiring and sensor shielding.
The all-important “brain” — the spacecraft’s flight computer — was housed in an armored vault made of titanium and weighing nearly 172 kg.
The craft is expected to study the composition of the planet’s atmosphere until 2021.