On Monday NASA’s Juno space probe, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, will get a close-up look at Jupiter’s biggest moon Ganymede, the agency said in a press release. It will be the closest NASA has gotten to the largest moon in the solar system for more than 20 years— Galileo cruised by Ganymede in 2000— coming within 645 miles of its surface. The information Juno gathers will give insight into the moon’s composition and ice shell, as well as provide data for future missions to Jupiter.
“Juno conveys a set-up of delicate instruments equipped for seeing Ganymede in manners at no other time conceivable,” said head specialist Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “By flying so close, we will bring the investigation of Ganymede into the 21st century, both supplementing future missions with our remarkable sensors and getting ready for the up and coming age of missions to the Jovian framework.”
Those missions include NASA’s Europa Clipper (launch date still TBD) and the European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer [JUICE] mission, slated to launch next year and arrive at Jupiter in 2029 (and kudos to the ESA for going the extra mile on that acronym).
Ganymede is greater than Mercury and is the lone moon in the close planetary system with its own magnetosphere, which NASA depicts as “an air pocket molded area of charged particles” that encompasses it. The JunoCam, which has taken large numbers of the most striking photographs of Jupiter during its central goal may have the option to snap around five pictures during the flyby, since Ganymede will show up and blur from see all inside a 25-minute window. Three hours before Juno gets to its nearest point close to Ganymede, its science instruments will start gathering information.
“In a real sense each subsequent checks,” said Matt Johnson, Juno mission chief at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “On Monday, we will race past Ganymede at just about 12 miles each second (19 kilometers each second).” And under 24 hours after the fact, Juno will make its 33rd science pass of Jupiter, he added.
Juno is expected to get closest to Ganymede at about 1:35PM ET on Monday. You can track where Juno is now with NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System interactive.