This week marked a special birthday celebration for Juno, NASA’s spacecraft currently in orbit around Jupiter. Juno launched 10 years ago this week, on August 5, 2011, and while it was originally intended to run only through 2018, its mission was recently extended to 2025.
During her time, Juno has revealed secrets of Jupiter’s strange atmosphere, including strange geometric storms at its poles, captured some stunning images of the planet, and performed a spectacular propulsion maneuver to overcome an eclipse.
“Since launch, Juno has executed more than 2 million commands, orbited Jupiter 35 times, and collected about three terabits of science data,” said project manager Ed Hirst of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at a release. “We are delighted with our continued exploration of Jupiter and there is much more to come. We have begun our extended mission and are waiting for an additional 42 orbits to explore the Jovian system. “
A new view of Ganymede
To celebrate 10 years of Juno, NASA released this new image of Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede, taken by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard Juno. JIRAM records in the infrared wavelength, revealing features that would be impossible to see in the visible light spectrum. It was used to record data on Ganymede when Juno recently flew by.
“Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury, but almost everything we explore on this mission to Jupiter is on a monumental scale,” said Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Infrared and other data collected by Juno during the flyby contain critical clues for understanding the evolution of Jupiter’s 79 moons from the time of their formation to the present.”
Ganymede has some interesting characteristics, such as being the only moon in the solar system with a magnetic field, which affects the flow of charged particles from the sun called plasma, which in turn affects the moon’s ice.
“We found the high latitudes of Ganymede dominated by water ice, with a fine grain size, which is the result of the intense bombardment of charged particles,” said Alessandro Mura, Juno co-investigator from the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome. “By contrast, low latitudes are shielded by the moon’s magnetic field and contain more of its original chemical composition, especially non-water ice components such as salts and organic compounds. It is extremely important to characterize the unique properties of these icy regions to better understand the spatial weathering processes that the surface undergoes. “
During its 10-year mission, Juno has become known to the public, especially thanks to its JunoCam imager, which has captured some stunning photos of the most beautiful planet in our solar system. Here are some of our favorite images Juno has captured: