On Thursday, Sept. 29, at 2:36 a.m. PDT (5:36 a.m. EDT), NASA’s Juno spacecraft will come inside 222 miles (358 kilometers) of the floor of Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, Europa. The solar-powered spacecraft is anticipated to acquire a few of the highest-resolution photographs ever taken of parts of Europa’s floor, in addition to accumulate precious information on the moon’s inside, floor composition, and ionosphere, together with its interplay with Jupiter’s magnetosphere.
Such info may gain advantage future missions, together with the company’s Europa Clipper, which is about to launch in 2024 to review the icy moon. “Europa is such an intriguing Jovian moon, it is the focus of its own future NASA mission,” stated Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “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.”
With an equatorial diameter of 1,940 miles (3,100 kilometers), Europa is about 90% the dimensions of Earth’s Moon. Scientists suppose a salty ocean lies beneath a miles-thick ice shell, sparking questions on potential situations able to supporting life beneath Europa’s floor.
The shut flyby will modify Juno’s trajectory, lowering the time it takes to orbit Jupiter from 43 to 38 days. It would be the closest a NASA spacecraft has approached Europa since Galileo got here inside 218 miles (351 kilometers) on Jan. 3, 2000. In addition, this flyby marks the second encounter with a Galilean moon throughout Juno’s prolonged mission. The mission explored Ganymede in June 2021 and plans to make shut approaches of Io in 2023 and 2024.
Data assortment will start an hour previous to closest method, when the spacecraft is 51,820 miles (83,397 kilometers) from Europa.
“The relative velocity between spacecraft and moon will be 14.7 miles per second (23.6 kilometers per second), so we are screaming by pretty fast,” stated John Bordi, Juno deputy mission supervisor at JPL. “All steps have to go like clockwork to successfully acquire our planned data, because soon after the flyby is complete, the spacecraft needs to be reoriented for our upcoming close approach of Jupiter, which happens only 7 ½ hours later.”
The spacecraft’s full suite of devices and sensors might be activated for the Europa encounter. Juno’s Jupiter Energetic-Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI) and its medium-gain (X-band) radio antenna will accumulate information on Europa’s ionosphere. Its Waves, Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE), and Magnetometer (MAG) experiments will measure plasma within the moon’s wake as Juno explores Europa’s interplay with Jupiter’s magnetosphere.
MAG and Waves may even seek for potential water plumes above Europa’s floor. “We have the right equipment to do the job, but to capture a plume will require a lot of luck,” stated Bolton. “We have to be at the right place at just the right time, but if we are so fortunate, it’s a home run for sure.”
Inside and Out
Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR) will peer into Europa’s water-ice crust, acquiring information on its composition and temperature. This is the primary time such information can have been collected to review the moon’s icy shell.
In addition, the mission expects to take 4 visible-light photographs of the moon with JunoCam (a public-engagement digicam) throughout the flyby. The Juno science crew will examine them to photographs from earlier missions, searching for adjustments in Europa’s floor options that may have occurred over the previous 20 years. These visible-light photographs can have an anticipated decision higher than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel.
Although Juno might be in Europa’s shadow when closest to the moon, Jupiter’s environment will replicate sufficient daylight for Juno’s visible-light imagers to gather information. Designed to take photographs of star fields and seek for vivid stars with recognized positions to assist Juno get its bearings, the mission’s star digicam (referred to as the Stellar Reference Unit) will take a high-resolution black-and-white picture of Europa’s floor. Meanwhile, the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) will try to gather infrared photographs of its floor.
Juno’s closeup views and information from its MWR instrument will inform the Europa Clipper mission, which is able to carry out practically 50 flybys after it arrives at Europa in 2030. Europa Clipper will collect information on the moon’s environment, floor, and inside—info that scientists will use to higher perceive Europa’s world subsurface ocean, the thickness of its ice crust, and potential plumes which may be venting subsurface water into area.
Ultraviolet instrument to play integral a part of NASA’s Europa Clipper mission
NASA’s Juno will carry out shut flyby of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa (2022, September 22)
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