NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures closest views of Europa since 2000 – Spaceflight Now


This view of Jovian moon Europa was created by processing a picture JunoCam captured throughout Juno’s shut flyby on Sept. 29, 2022. Credit score: Picture knowledge: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSSImage processing by Björn Jónsson CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Persevering with to collect bonus science knowledge in an prolonged mission round Jupiter, NASA’s Juno spacecraft recorded sharp views of the icy moon Europa Sept. 29 because the solar-powered probe raced by at a relative velocity of practically 53,000 mph (85,000 kilometers per hour).

Juno’s flyby of Europa was the closest go to of a spacecraft to Europa since Jan. 3, 2000, when NASA’s Galileo spacecraft flew 218 miles (351 kilometers) from the moon’s icy floor. Juno’s flyby Sept. 29 reached a distance of 218 miles from Europa.

Europa, barely smaller than Earth’s moon, is roofed in a world ice shell on high of an ocean of salty water that could be liveable. NASA is constructing the Europa Clipper spacecraft for launch in 2024 on a mission devoted to learning Jupiter’s icy moon, and to seek for proof that Europa harbors the components for all times.

Europa Clipper will make practically 50 flybys of Europa after reaching Jupiter in 2030, touring as shut as 16 miles (25 kilometers) from Europa’s frozen crust. However the Juno spacecraft had simply two hours to seize knowledge Sept. 29.

Juno was designed to gather knowledge on Jupiter itself, focusing its science devices on the large planet’s ambiance, magnetic discipline, and inside construction. Juno was additionally the primary spacecraft to picture the poles of Jupiter after coming into orbit across the planet on July 4, 2016. The robotic mission launched Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

NASA permitted an extension of the Juno mission in early 2021, permitting the spacecraft — if it stays wholesome — to proceed its exploration across the photo voltaic system’s largest planet via September 2025.

Jupiter’s uneven gravity discipline is step by step perturbing Juno’s trajectory and pulling the closest level of the spacecraft’s elongated orbit northward over time. The shift in Juno’s orbit will permit the spacecraft to get a greater view of Jupiter’s North Pole, and likewise allows flybys of Ganymede, Europa, and Io, three of the planet’s largest moons.

The JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this view of the terminator, or day-night transition, on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/AndreaLuck © CC

Juno flew by Ganymede on June 7, 2021, and is on monitor for 2 encounters with the volcanic moon Io on Dec. 30, 2023, and Feb. 3, 2024.

The spacecraft’s orbit is rising shorter with every flyby. The pull of gravity from Ganymede shortened Juno’s orbit from 53 to 43 days final yr, and Europa’s gravity tightened Juno’s orbital interval round Jupiter to 38 days.  The Io flybys in 2023 and 2024 will pull the Juno spacecraft right into a smaller orbit with a interval of 33 days.

“Juno began out utterly centered on Jupiter,” mentioned Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator from the Southwest Analysis Institute in San Antonio. “The crew is absolutely excited that in our prolonged mission, we expanded our investigation to incorporate three of the 4 Galilean satellites and Jupiter’s rings.

“With this flyby of Europa, Juno has now seen close-ups of two of probably the most fascinating moons of Jupiter, and their ice shell crusts look very completely different from one another. In 2023, Io, probably the most volcanic physique within the photo voltaic system, will be part of the membership,” Bolton mentioned in a press release.

Juno’s 9 scientific devices embrace a microwave radiometer for atmospheric soundings, ultraviolet and infrared spectrometers, particle detectors, a magnetometer, and a radio and plasma waves experiment. The Jupiter orbiter additionally carries a coloration digital camera often known as JunoCam, which collects picture knowledge for processing and evaluation by a military of citizen scientists around the globe.

This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft hovering over Jupiter’s south pole. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

JunoCam captured photographs of Europa doing the Sept. 29 flyby, whereas the spacecraft’s different devices had been tuned to search for particles lofted from Europa in potential eruptions via fractures within the moon’s international ice sheet. Indicators of recurring eruptions from Europa had been detected by the Hubble House Telescope.

Juno’s microwave radiometer was anticipated to probe the thickness of Europa’s international ice shell. And the spacecraft’s spectrometers had been to map concentrations of water ice, carbon dioxide and natural molecules throughout about 40 % of Europa’s floor.

“The science crew will probably be evaluating the total set of photographs obtained by Juno with photographs from earlier missions, trying to see if Europa’s floor options have modified over the previous twenty years,” mentioned Sweet Hansen, a Juno co-investigator who leads planning for the JunoCam digital camera on the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “The JunoCam photographs will fill within the present geologic map, changing present low-resolution protection of the realm.”

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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