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NASA Juno Spacecraft Snaps Photos of Our Solar System's Largest Moon

On June 7th, NASA's Juno spacecraft zipped closer to Jupiter's largest moon than any other has done in more than two decades. Racing at almost 12 miles per second (19 km per second), Juno successfully snapped the first images of Ganymede's icy shell, which show the surface in great detail, with craters, dark and bright landscapes, and long structural features that could be linked to tectonic faults.
Ganymede's surface as captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft on June 7 3 photos
The first images sent by NASA Juno spacecraft of Jupiter's largest moonThe first images sent by NASA Juno spacecraft of Jupiter's largest moon
The first two images were taken using the JunoCam visible-light imager onboard the spacecraft and its Stellar Reference Unit star navigation camera. JunoCam captured nearly an entire side of the water-ice-encrusted moon using its green filter, while the Stellar Reference Unit provided a black-and-white image of the moon's dark side illuminated by the faint light reflected off Jupiter.

NASA's imaging experts will be able to produce a color portrait of Ganymede when the version of the same image with the camera's red and blue filters becomes available.

What's fascinating about this satellite bigger than planet Mercury is that not only is it the only moon in our solar system that has its own magnetic field, but it is also believed to have water beneath its thick frozen surface. In 2015, the Hubble space telescope discovered the best evidence to date for an underground saltwater ocean. This ocean is thought to contain more water than Earth's entire surface.

These images show a grooved landscape, which according to NASA, is most likely the product of tensional faulting or water release from beneath the surface. Groove ridges up to 2,000 feet (700 meters) tall have been have been discovered to cross Ganymede's surface for thousands of miles.

Ganymede's large craters have almost no vertical relief and are quite flat compared to the ones we see on Earth's Moon. This is most likely due to a slow and gradual adaptation to the soft icy surface.

Juno's flyby will provide more information about the satellite's composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and frozen shell, as well as radiation observations that will help future missions to Jupiter and its moons. The agency stated that more images will be received from the spacecraft in the upcoming days, so keep an eye on NASA's webpage.

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