Juno flyby of Europa and a new, clear image

Juno flyby of Europa: Crisscrossed surface of an alien moon.
A Juno spacecraft instrument called the Stellar Reference Unit – a star camera used to orient the spacecraft – obtained this black-and-white image during a Juno flyby of Europa on September 29, 2022. Incredibly, Juno passed just 256 miles (412 km) above Europa’s surface, moving at about 15 miles per second (24 kps) over a part of the surface that was in nighttime, dimly lit by “Jupiter shine,” or sunlight reflecting off Jupiter’s cloud tops. Wow! And, we were there. Image via NASA.

NASA released this new image of Jupiter’s moon Europa on October 5, 2022. It is, significantly, the first close-up in over two decades of this moon, which is thought to have a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust. NASA’s Juno mission captured the image on September 29, 2022, while making a close flyby over the moon. The spacecraft passed only 256 miles (about 400 km) above Europa. And – although it caught only a portion of Europa’s crust – it is, in fact, the clearest image of Europa ever obtained. NASA said:

The image covers about 93 miles (150 km) by 125 miles (200 km) of Europa’s surface, revealing a region crisscrossed with a network of fine grooves and double ridges (pairs of long parallel lines indicating elevated features in the ice). Near the upper right of the image, as well as just to the right and below center, are dark stains possibly linked to something from below erupting onto the surface. Below center and to the right is a surface feature that recalls a musical quarter note, measuring 42 miles (67 km) north-south by 23 miles (37 km) east-west. The white dots in the image are signatures of penetrating high-energy particles from the severe radiation environment around the moon.

Juno flyby of Europa on September 29, 2022

Also, here are some earlier images of Juno’s flyby of Europa. Enjoy these views of this fascinating ocean world.

The Juno flyby of Europa

Juno came closest to Europa at 2:36 a.m. PDT (5:36 a.m. EDT) on September 29, 2022. Incredibly, the spacecraft came within 334 miles (538 km), capturing never-before-seen images of various portions of the moon’s surface. In addition, scientists also collected data on the moon’s interior, surface composition and ionosphere. Plus, it recorded Europa’s interaction with Jupiter’s magnetosphere, all of which will be useful in the upcoming Europa Clipper mission, set to launch in 2024.

Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) said:

Europa is such an intriguing Jovian moon, it is the focus of its own future NASA mission. We’re happy to provide data that may help the Europa Clipper team with mission planning, as well as provide new scientific insights into this icy world.

Jupiter’s moon Europa

Europa is, notably, one of the four largest moons of Jupiter. In general, these moons are known as the Galilean moons, and Europa is the second closest to Jupiter and the smallest of the four. Even so, Europa is still 1,940 miles (3,130 km) in diameter, making it about 90% as large as our own moon.

Furthermore, Europa has a surface of water ice, but, scientists believe, a liquid or slushy ocean lies beneath.

Indeed, this possible salty ocean could be a habitat for life.

In the meantime, you can keep track of where Juno is with NASA’s interactive Eyes on the Solar System web page.

Diagram of Jupiter and 3 moons with lines showing multiple orbits of Juno.
View larger. | NASA extended the Juno mission another 42 orbits, through September 2025. As an illustration, this diagram shows the original orbits in gray, plus the extended mission orbits in blue and purple. The “PJ” stands for perijove, or point of closest approach to the planet. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ SwRI.

Bottom line: Images – including one released October 5, 2022 – from the September 29 Juno flyby of Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.


October 5, 2022

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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