Science & Technology

NASA’s Juno Celebrates 10 Years With New Infrared View of Mammoth Jovian Moon Ganymede

This infrared view of Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede was obtained by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft throughout its July twentieth, 2021, flyby. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

The spacecraft used its infrared instrument throughout current flybys of Jupiter’s mammoth moon to create this newest map, which comes out a decade after Juno’s launch.

The science group for NASA’s Juno spacecraft has produced a brand new infrared map of the mammoth Jovian moon Ganymede, combining information from three flybys, together with its newest method on July 20. These observations by the spacecraft’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument, which “sees” in infrared mild not seen to the human eye, present new info on Ganymede’s icy shell and the composition of the ocean of liquid water beneath.

JIRAM was designed to seize the infrared mild rising from deep inside Jupiter, probing the climate layer all the way down to 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) beneath Jupiter’s cloud tops. However the instrument will also be used to review the moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto (identified collectively because the Galilean moons in honor of their discoverer, Galileo).

“Ganymede is bigger than the planet Mercury, however nearly all the things we discover on this mission to Jupiter is on a monumental scale,” mentioned Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Analysis Institute in San Antonio. “The infrared and different information collected by Juno in the course of the flyby comprise elementary clues for understanding the evolution of Jupiter’s 79 moons from the time of their formation to right now.”

This annotated map of Ganymede depicts the areas of the Jovian moon’s floor that have been imaged by the Juno spacecraft’s JIRAM instrument throughout two current shut approaches of the moon. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM/USGS

Juno got here inside 31,136 miles (50,109 kilometers) of Ganymede, the photo voltaic system’s largest moon, on July 20, 2021. Throughout earlier flybys on June 7, 2021, and December 26, 2019, the solar-powered orbiter got here inside 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) and 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers), respectively. The three observational geometries offered a chance for JIRAM to see the moon’s north polar area for the primary time, in addition to examine the range in composition between the high and low latitudes.

Ganymede can also be the one moon within the photo voltaic system with its personal magnetic discipline. On Earth, the magnetic discipline supplies a pathway for plasma (charged particles) from the Solar to enter our environment and create auroras. As a result of Ganymede has no environment to impede their progress, the floor at its poles is continually being bombarded by plasma from Jupiter’s gigantic magnetosphere. The bombardment has a dramatic impact on Ganymede’s ice.

“We discovered Ganymede’s excessive latitudes dominated by water ice, with high-quality grain measurement, which is the consequence of the extraordinary bombardment of charged particles,” mentioned Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the Nationwide Institute for Astrophysics in Rome. “Conversely, low latitudes are shielded by the moon’s magnetic discipline and comprise extra of its authentic chemical composition, most notably of non-water-ice constituents similar to salts and organics. This can be very vital to characterize the distinctive properties of these icy areas to higher perceive the space-weathering processes that the floor undergoes.”

Juno’s distinctive polar views and closeups of Ganymede construct on observations by NASA’s earlier explorers, amongst them Voyager, Galileo, New Horizons, and Cassini. Future missions with Ganymede of their journey plans embody the ESA (European House Company) JUICE mission, which is able to discover the icy Galilean moons with an emphasis on Ganymede, and NASA’s Europa Clipper, which is able to deal with Ganymede’s neighboring ocean world Europa.

Juno lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Pressure Station in Florida on August 5, 2011, at 9:25 a.m. PDT (12:25 p.m. EDT). After a five-year, 1,740-million-mile (2,800-million-kilometer) journey, it arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

“Since launch, Juno has executed over 2 million instructions, orbited Jupiter 35 instances, and picked up about three terabits of science information,” mentioned Undertaking Supervisor Ed Hirst of JPL. “We’re thrilled by our ongoing exploration of Jupiter, and there may be rather more to return. We now have began our extended mission and look ahead to 42 extra orbits to discover the Jovian system.”

Juno’s prolonged mission, which duties the spacecraft with persevering with its investigations by September 2025, consists of shut passes of Jupiter’s north polar cyclones, flybys of the moons Europa and Io (together with Ganymede), in addition to the primary exploration of the faint rings encircling the planet. It can additionally broaden on discoveries Juno has already made about Jupiter’s inside construction, inner magnetic discipline, environment (together with polar cyclones, deep environment, and aurora), and magnetosphere.

Extra In regards to the Mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott J. Bolton, of the Southwest Analysis Institute in San Antonio. Juno is an element of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall House Flight Middle in Huntsville, Alabama, for the company’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin House in Denver constructed and operates the spacecraft.

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