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In brief: NASA has shared the first two images captured by its Juno Spacecraft earlier this week as it zipped by Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede. The flyby happened on June 7 and is the closest a spacecraft has come to Jupiter’s icy moon in more than two decades.
Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said they are going to take their time before drawing any scientific conclusions from the images, but for now, “we can simply marvel at this celestial wonder.”
The images – one from the orbiter’s JunoCam imager and the other from its Stellar Reference Unit star camera – highlight craters, dark and light spots on the terrain and what NASA believes could be structural features linked to tectonic faults.
The JunoCam managed to capture almost an entire side of the moon using its green filter. Later, once versions of the same photo are beamed back using the red and blue filters, NASA will be able to provide a color portrait of the moon.
(The Stellar Reference Unit is a navigation camera that helps keep the craft on course. It provided this black-and-white image of the dark side of Ganymede.)
NASA's Juno space probe left Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2011, and entered a polar orbit of Jupiter on July 5, 2016. Earlier this year, NASA extended the probe's mission span to September 2025. Once its work is done, it will be sent into Jupiter's atmosphere for disintegration.
More images are expected in the coming days and will be available on NASA’s website.