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NASA Spacecraft Has a Close Encounter with Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016 and flew over Jupiter’s moon Ganymede at close range at 1:35 pm. Monday, US Eastern Time. His goal: to evaluate the composition and magnetic field of the frozen sphere, as well as other measurement results.

“The Juno carries a series of sensitive instruments that can observe Europa in an unprecedented way,” Juno’s principal researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Scott Bolton, said in a NASA statement. “By flying so close, we will bring Ganymede’s exploration into the 21st century, supplement future missions with our unique sensors, and help prepare for the next generation of Jupiter system missions.” Juno spacecraft in 2011 Launch into space. Take a closer look at Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, to better understand the composition and evolution of this gas giant and its many mysterious moons.

In today‘s flyby, assuming everything goes according to plan, Juno uses an instrument designed for Jupiter to unlock the mystery of Ganymede. Spacecraft’s microwave radiometers usually focus on the motion and chemical composition of Jupiter’s atmosphere (at a depth of nearly 350 miles!), and take a deep look at Europa, a Mercury-sized satellite, to understand what got into the sphere. Water ice. Cortex. In the NASA statement, Bolton pointed out that different parts of Ganymede’s outer layer are light and dark, indicating that some ice may be more than just frozen water, but scientists are not only interested in Ganymede. 

Three visible characteristics. Juno’s radio transponder is configured to send radio waves to the moon’s atmosphere, hoping that the outer layer, called the ionosphere, will distort the waves slightly, and Earth’s observatory can detect this difference. Dustin Buccino, a signal analysis engineer for the Juno mission, said in the same statement: “If we can measure this change, we can understand Ganymede’s ionosphere, its intrinsic magnetic field, and Jupiter’s magnetosphere. In addition, the noise in the images collected by the Juno camera will be used to discern information about the radiation environment of Ganymede, and the visible light will help researchers better identify areas of interest on the surface

Juno’s work is based on the work of the Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter for nearly eight years and overflew all of Jupiter’s major moons. The mission ended in 2003 when Galileo was ordered to crash into Jupiter’s atmosphere and destroy the spacecraft. Galileo detected Ganymede’s magnetic field, and this observation led to Juno’s work today. Because of how fast the flyover unfolds (the Juno will pass at a speed of 12 miles per second), the spacecraft will only have about 25 minutes to image the moon before the moon becomes a distant point of light again. 

The next-generation Jupiter mission is already underway. The European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy satellite probe (JUICE, apparently an acronym implemented through Simone Byers-class stadiums) and NASA’s Europa Clippers will launch in 2022 and 2024, respectively. These launch dates will allow the spacecraft to reach Jupiter’s orbit around 2030, about the same time as NASA’s Venus mission. Yes, from now on, 2030 seems to be eternal, but at least, I hope we can enjoy the manned Artemis mission to the moon during this period.

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