NASA’s Juno probe has sent close-up images of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon.
The pictures were taken from a distance of approximately 1,000 kilometers.
These are the closest images taken by a Ganymede spacecraft in more than twenty years.
Junos main mission is to study Jupiter, but it took the opportunity to pass near the supermoon to send pictures.
The European Space Agency plans to send a specialized mission to study the Galilean moons, the four largest of Jupiter’s moons discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610.
The mission is called “Jupiter’s Icy Moons Explorer” and stands for Juice, and it is scheduled to pass alongside the moons of Callisto and Europa, before beginning to orbit Ganymede in 2032.
New Juno images show the supermoon’s surface in high resolution. The new images will be compared with other images taken by two previous NASA space probes, “Galileo” (1995-2003) and “Voyager” (1979), to confirm the existence of shifts over time.
“This is the first time a spacecraft has approached the giant moon in a generation,” said Juno chief investigator Scott Bolton. “We will take our time before we reach any scientific results, but until then, we will be satisfied with this celestial miracle.”
Ganymede, along with Callisto and Europa, has oceans beneath its icy surfaces.
NASA announced that it will publish color versions of the images taken by the Juno probe soon.