NASA Spacecraft Takes a Picture of Jupiter … From the Moon

The feeling is familiar. Seeing Jupiter through your telescope. It will give you chills, just like mine. You can see Jupiter's Galilean moons if you zoom in on this picture.
LRO usually takes spectacular, high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface. LRO's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, (LROC), was used by the LRO team to scan the sky around Jupiter, approximately 600 million kilometers away. They struck the jackpot. Although it is not Hubble Space Telescope quality this image was captured from a spacecraft orbiting 100km above the lunar surface. This is an engineering feat.

Brett Denevi, a member of the LRO team, tweeted that we took a photo of Jupiter taken from the Moon last month. Although it may not have the best resolution, it is ours.

Last month, we took a picture of Jupiter taken from the Moon. Although it may not have the best resolution, it is ours.

From the Moon to Jupiter, with Love Brett Denevi (@bwdenev) September 28, 2021

Denevi shared his experience on the LRO website, explaining that taking a photo of Jupiter was a labor-of-love. These complicated maneuvers are done by the team because they enjoy exploring the planets and taking photos.

Denevi stated that it is great to look at the Solar System from our lunar orbit perch.

The spacecraft is more than 12 years old so some things don't work as well. The Inertial Measurement Unit, (IMU), which monitors LRO's position, is approaching the end of its operational lifespan. The IMU can now be used only in emergency or special situations. The LROs team must now use the spacecrafts startracker cameras to determine its location and rotate.

LROs view Jupiter with an alternate crop, and a greater contrast stretch to make Ganymede & Callisto visible. Europa and Io can be seen protruding from Jupiter's side. In reality, however, they are just off Jupiter's limb. However, due to the stretch to the scene, they have all merged together. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

This makes it more difficult to image anywhere other than directly at the lunar surface. Denevi said that we don't want the star trackers pointed at Moon, but stars. Also, the spacecraft is gracefully ageing so the solar panels should be kept away from the Sun as much as possible. The operations team also had to consider other timing and thermal constraints. They worked hard to determine the best time to turn the spacecraft towards the outer Solar System, and scan across Jupiter in order to obtain this image.

Surprisingly this isn't the first time LROC took a photo of Jupiter. They did another shot in 2020. LRO occasionally turns its gaze outward to see other parts of the Solar System like Mars or Earth.

The LROC team, like many others around the globe, likes to look up at the sky and see the planets and stars firsthand. Denevi explained that the LROC team couldn't resist doing the same.