Not long after pulling into orbit around Jupiter, NASA’s Juno spacecraft snapped an image of the giant planet and three of its moons. It’s the first spacescape returned after the probe’s daring plunge through Jupiter’s lethal radiation belts.
During the most treacherous part of Juno’s journey to Jupiter, orbit insertion, the camera and all of the craft’s instruments were turned off.. On July 10, six days after surviving its encounter with hyper-speed dust and charged particles hurtling through space at light-speed, JunoCam came back to life.
The image signals the mission team that all is well—at least with JunoCam, a camera that will eventually be aimed wherever public consensus dictates.
"We can't wait to see the first view of Jupiter's poles,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement.
Juno took this photo while it was 2.7 million miles away from the solar system’s biggest planet. In it, Jupiter’s beautiful atmospheric bands and shrinking Great Red Spot are visible. Also shown, hanging against the cosmic black, are three of the planet’s four Galilean moons (so named because Galileo discovered them and discerned their true allegiance in 1610).
Callisto, which orbits farthest from the planet, escaped having its picture taken; but volcanic Io, humongous Ganymede, and watery Europa—the target for NASA’s next mission to the outer planets and one of the most likely hosts for extraterrestrial life—are there.
Juno will return even more magnificent images of the banded world it calls home for at least the next 20 months. Among others, it will provide the first views of Jupiter’s poles from orbit, where the solar system’s most extreme auroras shimmer and morph. The Juno science team expects the first high-resolution images of Jupiter to be taken on August 27, when the spacecraft is next closest to Jupiter. And starting sometime in November, anyone with access to the Juno website will be able to vote on where Juno’s eyes should be aimed.