NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures a rare close-up of Jupiter’s largest moon

NASA’s Juno spacecraft provided the first close-up of Jupiter’s largest satellite in two decades.

On Monday, the Juno flew over the icy Ganymede, passing within 645 miles (1,038 kilometers). The last time a spacecraft came so close was in 2000, when NASA’s Galileo spacecraft passed by the largest satellite in our solar system.

NASA released the first two photos of Juno on Tuesday, highlighting Ganymede’s crater and narrow features that may be related to structural faults. One shows the far side of the moon, opposite the sun.

This is the dark side of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede captured by Juno. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/Associated Press)

Scott Bolton, the chief scientist of Juno and of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said: “This is the closest any spacecraft has been to this huge satellite in a generation.”

“Before drawing any scientific conclusions, we will take our time, but until then, we can only marvel at this celestial miracle-the only moon in our solar system larger than Mercury.”

Ganymede is one of 79 known moons orbiting the gas giant Jupiter. The Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei discovered Ganymede and the three sub-large moons of Jupiter in 1610.

Juno was launched ten years ago and has been orbiting Jupiter for five years.

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