Juno Makes Close Flyby of Jupiter’s Moon, Europa

Oct 5, 2022 | Daily Space, Europa, Juno

One of the prime candidates for that search is Jupiter’s moon Europa, a world slightly smaller than the Earth’s Moon and the sixth-largest moon in our solar system. Beneath the thick, icy shell lies a salty subsurface ocean which researchers have shown to be capable of sustaining life. And right now, a new science team is preparing for the future Europa Clipper mission to the Jovian moon. Planned to launch in 2024, the mission’s main science goal is to truly determine if the oceans could support life.

Juno Makes Close Flyby of Jupiter’s Moon, Europa
IMAGE: The complex, ice-covered surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during a flyby on Sept. 29, 2022. At closest approach, the spacecraft came within a distance of about 219 miles (352 kilometers). CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS

In preparation for that mission and as a part of the extended mission of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, on September 29, the JunoCam onboard Juno took pictures of Europa during a very close flyby of the icy world. The window for data collection was a mere two hours, and the craft was flying by at 23.6 kilometers per second. The images collected were of a region just to the north of Europa’s equator, and community scientists have processed them to reveal rugged terrain features including ridges and troughs. We’ll have links to some of the images in our show notes at DailySpace.org.

Taken from a mere 352 kilometers, this flyby was the third closest pass in history and the most recent since the Galileo mission back in 2000. As a result of the close pass and newer camera, the images collected had a resolution of 1 kilometer per pixel.  Co-investigator Candy Hansen explains: The science team will be comparing the full set of images obtained by Juno with images from previous missions, looking to see if Europa’s surface features have changed over the past two decades. The JunoCam images will fill in the current geologic map, replacing existing low-resolution coverage of the area.

But remember, JunoCam was an afterthought to the Juno spacecraft – an outreach project to inspire people to participate in science by processing the images. On top of the pictures, Juno’s other instruments collected data on the structure of the ice shell, the surface composition, the ionosphere, and even Europa’s interactions with Jupiter’s massive magnetosphere.

More Information

NASA JPL press release


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