Ganymede is bigger than Mercury
On Monday, NASA’s Juno space probe, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, will take a closer look at Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede, the agency said Press release. It will be closest to the Solar System’s largest moon by NASA for more than 20 years Cruises by Galileo Ganymede in 2000 – coming within 645 miles of its surface. The information Juno collects will provide insight into the Moon’s composition and ice shell, as well as data for future missions to Jupiter.
“Juno has a suite of sensitive instruments capable of observing Ganymede in a way never before possible,” said principal investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “By flying so closely, we will bring Ganymede exploration into the 21st century, both complementing future missions with our unique sensors and helping to prepare the next generation of missions to the Jovian system.”
Those missions include NASA’s Europa Clipper (launch date still TBD) and the European Space Agency Jupiter ICE Moons Explorer [JUICE] mission, to launch next year and arrive at Jupiter in 2029 (and kudos to ESA for going the extra mile on that familiarity).
Ganymede is larger than Mercury and the only moon in the Solar System that has its own magnetosphere, which NASA describes as the “bubble-shaped region of charged particles” that surrounds it. JunoCam, which has taken many of the most striking pictures of Jupiter during its mission, will only be able to capture five images during the flyby, as Ganymede will be visible and visible to all within a 25-minute window. Three hours before Juno reaches its closest point near Ganymede, its science instruments will begin collecting data.
“Literally every second counts,” said Matt Johnson, Juno mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “On Monday, we’re going to overtake Ganymede at about 12 miles per second (19 kilometers per second).” He said that in less than 24 hours, Juno will make the 33rd science pass of Jupiter.
Juno is expected to make its closest approach to Ganymede at around 1:35 p.m. Monday. You Can Track Where Juno Is Now With NASA Eyes on the Solar System Interactive.