NASA has clicked the first photos of Jupiter’s largest moon. Ganymede is the largest moon of the gas giant. The photos were taken during the Juno spacecraft’s flyby. The spacecraft was launched by NASA in 2011. It entered Jupiter’s polar orbit in 2016. It is conducting scientific experiments since then. It flew closer to Ganymede than any other moon in nearly two decades in the solar system. It sent back two photos of the moon. The photos were taken by the JunoCam imager and Stellar Reference Unit star camera. The pictures show glimpses of the icy orb and surface in detail. There are craters clearly visible. NASA said that the spacecraft came within 645 miles of Ganymede’s surface during the flyby.
NASA said that the Juno team will study the images in detail before drawing scientific conclusions. The JunoCam used its green filter to click the photo. It shows that one side of the moon is entirely water-ice-encrusted. The Stellar Reference Unit of Juno is a navigation camera. It helps to keep Juno on course. It also provided a photo. The picture is black-and-white of the moon’s dark side. The region is bathed in dim light because it is opposite to the Sun. Jupiter is the largest planet in the entire solar system and fifth from the Sun. It has a hundred known moons. Ganymede is the largest of the four moons discovered by Galileo Galilei in the 16th century. Ganymede is even bigger than Mercury. It is the only moon that has its own magnetosphere.
NASA said that the Juno spacecraft will send more pictures of its flyby. The agency is hopeful that the photos will provide insights into Ganymede’s composition. It said that Juno has sensitive instruments that make it capable of seeing the planet and its moon in ways never seen before. Juno is a solar-powered system. It was built by Lockheed Martin. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA operates it. NASA said that the photos data collected from Juno will help in planning future missions. The agency is already working on missions to the Jovian system. Europa Clipper, a NASA program that will study Galilean moon Europa while in Jupiter’s orbit, is likely to be launched in 2024. It will arrive at Jupiter in 2030. Before this, the ESA is planning to launch JUICE in 2022. It will arrive at Jupiter in 2029.