On June 7, 2021, NASA's Juno spacecraft flew closer to Jupiter's ice-covered moon Ganymede than any other spacecraft in more than two decades.
Less than a day later, Juno made its 34th flyby of Jupiter, after which civil scientist Gerald Eichstadt compiled an animation for NASA from the images taken by the ship. JunoCam images were orthographically projected onto a digital sphere, and synthetic footage was added to provide an indication of the ship's approach and distance from Ganymede and Jupiter.
“The animation shows how wonderful deep space exploration can be. It's a way to see what it feels like to orbit Jupiter and fly past one of its icy moons. Today, as we approach the exciting prospect of humans visiting space in Earth orbit, it propels our imagination decades into the future, when humans will visit alien worlds in the solar system.”- Scott Bolton, Juno Principal Investigator.
The animation begins with Juno approaching Ganymede, flying within 1,038 kilometers of the surface at a relative speed of 67,000 kilometers per hour. The images show several dark and light areas of the satellite (the darker areas are believed to be the result of ice sublimation into the surrounding vacuum, leaving behind darkened remnants), as well as the Tros crater, which is one of the largest and brightest scars on the surface of Ganymede.
It takes Juno only 14 hours and 50 minutes to cover the 1.18 million kilometers between Ganymede and Jupiter, and the viewer is transported only 3,400 kilometers above the gas giant's impressive cloud tops. By this time, the powerful gravity of Jupiter accelerated the spacecraft to almost 210,000 km / h.
Jupiter's atmospheric features that can be seen include circumpolar cyclones at the North Pole and five cyclones from the gas giant's pearl string. Using information Juno learned from studying Jupiter's atmosphere, the animation team modeled the lightning that could be seen as we virtually swept over the planet's giant thunderstorms.
As planned, the giant moon's gravitational pull affected Juno's orbit, resulting in a reduction in its orbital period from 53 days to 43 days. The next flyby of Jupiter, the 35th in a row in the mission, is scheduled for July 21.