Thursday, August 5, marked 10 years since Juno was sent by NASA on a one way trip to discover the largest planet in our solar systems.
It didn't arrive at Jupiter until July 2016, when the probe was still in orbit. NASA shared a treat with us Earth-gazers to celebrate 10 years of Jupiter orbiter service. Juno's JIRAM (or Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper) provided the photo of Jupiter moon Ganymede, which was taken on July 20.
The Juno probe captured Jupiter's moon Ganymede just weeks before the 10th anniversary of its launch. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM
Ganymede is more than a celeb because it's Jupiter's largest moon. It is also the largest moon in the entire solar system. It measures approximately one-and-a half times larger than Earth's moon. NASA states that less than half its water-ice crusted, darkened surface is pitted from impact craters. Rest of the surface is lighter and more marked by grooved terrain.
This new image isn't able to show any fine details, but it's due to the source. Juno's JIRAM infrared camera is used to create the above image. It is a composite of three flybys of Juno's moon. The last one was July 20. This composite doesn't pick up fine surface details. Instead, it shows Ganymede’s "icy shell" and the composition below.
It is much easier to see the moon's unique features in traditional photos. Juno captured this image on June 7th. It shows us Juno's view at Ganymede in its closest flyby by any spacecraft over the past 20 years. The intricately carved terrain can be clearly seen here. This may or may not have been caused by tectonic faults.
Juno also contributed more detail to Ganymede’s surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
The 10-year-old Juno was not present during the previous closest flyby. After the Galileo probe, the Jupiter orbiter is now the second spacecraft that has visited the moon and its gas giant.
Juno's next major moment will be Sept. 2022, when the probe is positioned for a close-up view of Jupiter's moon Europa. A flyby of Io will follow one year later. This, along with these 10th anniversary photos, amounts to bonus time for Juno's solar-powered probe. NASA officially extended Juno's mission to 2025, or its end of service, back in January 2021.
These probes are not meant to be recovered. Juno's work is over when Jupiter's immense gravitational pull will bring the spacecraft within striking distance of destroying it.