You are about to see stunning photos of Jupiter’s moon, which is considered one of the top candidates for hosting alien life in our solar systems.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft will soon get very close to Jupiter moon Europa. Juno is preparing for its closest flyby of the Moon in decades. The close approach of the probe , which is scheduled for Thursday September 29, will allow it to collect data and images.
Europa is somewhat of a celebrity in the solar system. It’s an icy planet that is a little smaller then Earth’s moon. Researchers are especially interested in what might lurk below. NASA stated that scientists believe there is a salty ocean below the ice shell. This raises questions about whether conditions could support life beneath Europa’s surface.
Juno will travel within 222 miles (358 km) of Europa’s surface. This is roughly the distance between Washington, D.C. and New York City. NASA anticipates that it will return some of the most high-resolution images of the mysterious moon.
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Juno was launched to Jupiter orbit in 2016. It earned a mission extension for 2021, which tasked Juno with studying the rings of Jupiter and its largest moons. It has already taken a look at Ganymede, and is now ready to give Europa some attention.
Expect knockout images, but Juno also will be collecting data. The instruments on the spacecraft will examine the temperature and composition of the moon’s icy outer shell. It will also study the moon’s atmosphere (the ionosphere) and the moon’s interaction with Jupiter.
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Scientists hope that Juno will be able capture one the moon’s mysterious geysers. Scott Bolton, Juno Principal Investigator, said that while we have the equipment necessary to complete the task, it will take a lot luck to capture the plume. “We must be in the right place at the right time. But if we’re so lucky, it’s a home run for certain.”
NASA will use all this information to plan for its Europa Clipper mission. This mission will attempt to understand how the moon can support life.
The last time a spacecraft came so close to Europa was 2000, when the Galileo Mission got in touch with it. Juno will not be satisfied with bagging only Ganymede or Europa. In 2023, the moon Io will follow Juno.
Published for the first time on September 23, 2022, at 9:30 AM PT.