by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
NASA’s Juno space probe will zoom by Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede this week, collecting new data about the moon for the first time in two decades. The spacecraft, which has been orbiting planet Jupiter since 2016, will soar 645 miles above Ganymede’s icy surface at 43,200 miles per hour.
The flyby will give researchers a better understanding of the enormous moon’s water-ice crust and magnetic field to help prepare for future missions to Jupiter, reports NPR’s Joe Palca.
“Juno carries a suite of sensitive instruments capable of seeing Ganymede in ways never before possible,” said Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio in a statement. “By flying so close, we will bring the exploration of Ganymede into the 21st century, both complementing future missions with our unique sensors and helping prepare for the next generation of missions to the Jovian system.”
The Jovian moon is as fascinating as it is mysterious. The natural satellite is larger than the planet Mercury, and it’s the only moon in our solar system with a magnetic field, reports Kim Lyons for the Verge. Read More: