A mesmerizing NASA video lets you ride the Juno spacecraft as it flies past Jupiter and its largest moon

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NASA's Juno spacecraft orbiting above Jupiter's Great Red Spot can be seen in this undated handout illustration obtained by Reuters on July 11, 2017. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS

An illustration of NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Thomson Reuters

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been beaming photos of Jupiter back to Earth since 2016, but a new video shows what the view might look like from the probe as it flies past Jupiter’s roaring cyclones and giant storms.

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The images also offer a first look at Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede – an icy sphere larger than Mercury.

Juno flew within 645 miles of Ganymede last week β€” the closest a spacecraft has come to the moon in more than two decades. (The last approach was by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 2000.) Less than a day later, Juno made its 34th flight past Jupiter, snapping photos along the way.

Citizen scientist Gerald EichstΓ€dt collected images from both journeys in a time-lapse video that shows what it’s like to go past the celestial bodies. The video is three minutes and 30 seconds long, but in reality it took Juno nearly 15 hours to travel the 735,000 miles between Ganymede and Jupiter, and then about three more hours to travel between Jupiter’s poles.

Watch the video below:

The beginning of the images shows Ganymede’s crater surface, marked by dark spots that likely form when ice instantly changes from solid to gas. If you look closely, you can see one of Ganymede’s largest and brightest craters, Tros, surrounded by white jets of ejecta.

When it captured those images, Juno was traveling at about 41,600 miles per hour. But as the spacecraft got closer to Jupiter, its speed increased: The planet’s gravity accelerates Juno to nearly 130,000 miles per hour during its flybys.

The video shows Jupiter’s turbulent surface emerging from the dark abyss of space like a watercolor. White ovals indicate a series of giant storms in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere known as the “string of pearls.” (There are five in the video.) Flashes of white light represent lightning.

“The animation shows just how beautiful deep space exploration can be,” said Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. said in a statement.

He added: “As we approach the exciting prospect of humans being able to visit space in orbit, this propels our imaginations decades into the future, when humans will visit the alien worlds in our solar system.”

Juno has already solved some of Jupiter’s mysteries

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Jupiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS, Tanya Oleksuik

Juno flies in an elliptical orbit around Jupiter and comes close to the planet once every 53 days. However, his recent close pass to Ganymede shortened that orbit to 43 days.

The main purpose of the spacecraft is to gain insight into Jupiter’s origin and evolution by mapping its magnetic fields, studying its northern and southern lights (or auroras), and measuring elements of its atmosphere – including temperature, cloud movement and water concentrations.

The spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016. (Jupiter is about 390 million miles from Earth.) Originally, the mission was supposed to end this month, but NASA has extended Juno’s lifespan to 2025.

juno junocam jupiter perijov 10 nasa jpl caltech swri msss 11

Junos previous flybys have yielded important discoveries, such as the fact that most of Jupiter’s lightning is concentrated at the north pole. The spacecraft also found that storms tend to appear in symmetrical clusters at Jupiter’s poles, and that the planet’s powerful auroras produce ultraviolet light invisible to human eyes.

This week, Juno’s measurements helped scientists find out why are these auroras forming in the first place?: Electrically charged atoms, or ions, “surf” electromagnetic waves in Jupiter’s magnetic field before crashing into the planet’s atmosphere.

Read the original article Business Insider

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