NASA spacecraft buzzes Jupiter moon Europa, closest in years

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has made the closest approach to Jupiter’s tantalizing, icy moon Europa in more than 20 years.

| Updated on: Sep 30 2022, 16:52 IST
NASA Juno Mission: Check out STUNNING photo of Jupiter
1/6 According to NASA, the Juno Mission captured and sent stunning images of Jupiter to Earth. These raw images captured the gas giant planet and even captured some storms occurring near its North Pole. (NASA)
2/6 Jupiter is a heavily radiated planet which affects the images captured as well as the spacecraft itself, although the presence of storms enhances the image for spectacular viewing. The storms are hurricanes near the North Pole of the planet. (NASA)
3/6 According to NASA, these powerful hurricanes can reach a height of more than 50 kilometers and can spread across a geography of hundreds of kilometers. “Jupiter's atmosphere, as well as the fluid dynamics and cloud chemistry that create the planet's other atmospheric features,” NASA said in a statement. (NASA/AFP)
4/6 These gigantic storms spin in anti-clockwise direction on the northern hemisphere of Jupiter while the same storms building near the south pole of the gas giant spin in clockwise direction. Further, storms in the north pole differ distinctly from the ones in the south pole in both color as well as shape. (REUTERS)
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5/6 The Juno Mission is a long-term mission to understand the weather and the dynamics of the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, which will allow further understanding of the behaviour of different exoplanets in different solar systems. (NASA)
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6/6 NASA has warned that the Juno spacecraft is in good condition at present, despite its extended mission, but will have a limited lifespan due to having absorbed heavy amounts of radiation from Jupiter. (NASA)
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NASA’s Juno Mission is a long-term mission to understand the weather and the dynamics of the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. (AP)

NASA's Juno spacecraft has made the closest approach to Jupiter's tantalizing, icy moon Europa in more than 20 years. Juno on Thursday zipped within approximately 219 miles (352 kilometers) of Europa, thought to have an ocean flowing beneath its thick frozen crust, raising the possibility of underwater life. Scientists hailed the flyby as a success, with four pictures beamed down and released within several hours.

Scientists had hoped to observe possible water plumes shooting from the surface of Europa, close in size to Earth's moon. But none were immediately visible in the initial look.

“We have to be at the right place at just the right time," Juno's chief scientist, Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement.

John Bordi, deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, expected the spacecraft to go “screaming by pretty fast,” with a relative velocity of almost 15 miles per second (23.6 kilometers per second).

The first photo from the flyby is a closeup of Europa's equatorial region, crisscrossed by ridges, troughs and possibly an impact crater.

The latest observations will help NASA plan for its Europa Clipper mission, due to launch in 2024 and arrive at the Jovian system in 2030. The European Space Agency also plans close encounters with its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or Juice, lifting off next year.

NASA's former Galileo spacecraft still holds the Europa flyby record, passing within 218 miles (351 kilometers) in 2000.

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First Published Date: 30 Sep, 16:52 IST