Juno to make closest approach to Solar System’s largest Moon, study Ganymede’s composition, ice shells

The Juno spacecraft, which has been finding out Jupiter because it reached the planet’s orbit in 2016 is all set for a historic flyby on June 7. The spacecraft will come inside 1,038 kilometres of the floor of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede. “The flyby will be the closest a spacecraft has come to the solar system’s largest natural satellite since Nasa’s Galileo spacecraft made its penultimate close approach back on May 20, 2000,” Nasa stated in an announcement.

During its shut flyby, the spacecraft will ship insights in regards to the moon’s composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and ice shell, whereas its readings of the radiation setting close to the moon will profit future missions to the Jovian system. The flyby will assist engineers perceive and devise a brand new technique for the Europa Clipper Mission, which can conduct an in depth survey of Jupiter’s moon Europa to decide whether or not the icy moon could harbour conditions suitable for life.

Juno, which has been making sweeping orbits round Jupiter, will start gathering information about three hours earlier than the spacecraft’s closest approach and peer into the Ganymede’s water-ice crust, acquiring information on its composition and temperature. The probe will use Ultraviolet Spectrograph (UVS) and Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) and Microwave Radiometer’s (MWR) for the research in the course of the shut flyby.

Jupiter’s moon IO circumstances a shadow on the planet. (Photo: Nasa)

Studying largest Moon in Solar System

Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury and is the one moon within the photo voltaic system with its personal magnetosphere a bubble-shaped area of charged particles surrounding it. Its ice shell has some light and dark regions, suggesting that some areas could also be pure ice whereas different areas comprise soiled ice. Scientists hope that the MWR instrument will present “the first in-depth investigation of how the composition and structure of the ice vary with depth, leading to a better understanding of how the ice shell forms and the ongoing processes that resurface the ice over time.”

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According to Nasa, as Juno passes behind Ganymede, radio signals will pass through its ionosphere, causing small changes in the frequency that should be picked up by two antennas at the Deep Space Network’s Canberra complex in Australia. Measuring the changes will help understand the connection between Ganymede’s ionosphere, its intrinsic magnetic field, and Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

Juno captured the Jovian system with Jupiter and its three moons Io, Europa and Ganymede as it approached the planet in 2016. (Photo: Nasa)

The spacecraft will be able to click several images during the flyby which is expected to last for 25 minutes. The JunoCam will capture images at a resolution equivalent to that from Voyager and Galileo probes that have passed through in the past. The team will then analyse the images, comparing them to those from previous missions, looking for changes in surface features that might have occurred over four decades.

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What is Juno Spacecraft?

Named after Jupiter’s wife, the goddess Juno, the spacecraft was launched in 2011 and reached its destination in 2016. Since its arrival in Jupiter’s orbit, the spacecraft is trying to understand the origin and evolution of the planet by peering through its dense cloud cover. The spacecraft is investigating the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras.

Due to the pace of the flyby, the icy moon will from JunoCam’s viewpoint go from being a degree of sunshine to a viewable disk then again to a degree of sunshine in about 25 minutes. (Photo: Nasa)

Juno lately revealed for the primary time the start of auroral daybreak storms the early morning brightening distinctive to Jupiter’s spectacular aurorae. Nasa had in January authorised a mission extension for the spacecraft, that may now proceed its investigation of the photo voltaic system’s largest planet by way of September 2025, or till the spacecraft’s finish of life.

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