(ORDO NEWS) — Juno became the third spacecraft in history to fly below 500 kilometers above the surface of Europa.
He did not have quite a bit to set a record, but the data of the measurements and surveys will be useful for the planned landing on the satellite.
The Juno interplanetary station (“Juno”) was launched in 2011 to study Jupiter, where it arrived five years later.
In 2021, the device completed its main mission and was refocused on new research, including flights over some of the gas giant’s large satellites.
The planned rendezvous with the Europa satellite took place on September 29, as described in the message of the NASA press service.
Europa is the smallest of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons. Its surface consists of smooth ice, dotted with cracks.
It is assumed that a whole ocean of water is hidden under it, which is heated by tidal forces that arise when the satellite moves in the gravitational field of a giant planet.
The subglacial ocean of Europa is considered perhaps the most suitable place for life in the entire solar system, in addition to the Earth.
New missions are planned for it to search for possible traces of local microorganisms.
So far, only two spacecraft have approached Europe closer than 500 kilometers. The record is held by the Galileo probe, which dropped to 351 in 2000, but the new flyby was only slightly higher at 352 kilometers.
Juno swept over the satellite at a speed of 23.6 kilometers per second and, during the two hours of approach, made observations that will help to better understand the composition of the surface and the internal structure of Europa, its interaction with Jupiter’s magnetic field.
Work began even when the probe was more than 83,000 kilometers from the satellite. Onboard instruments recorded particles of plasma streams moving around Europa under the influence of the planet’s magnetic field.
Measurements of the ionosphere, temperature and composition of the satellite’s ice crust, signs of water ejection in the region of its south pole were carried out.
In parallel, the device was shooting with a JunoCam camera. The raw images sent to them are posted in the public domain.
This data will certainly come in handy for the preparation of the Europa Clipper mission, which should start in 2024 and go directly to Jupiter’s moon.
According to the plan, it will include an orbiter and a lander that will search for traces of possible life right on the icy surface of Europa.
Meanwhile, Juno itself continues to work as part of an expanded mission. In 2023-2024, the device will make rendezvous with another Galilean satellite, volcanic Io.
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