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NASA probe snaps stunning photos of crescent Jupiter and its moon Ganymede

juno jupiter
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Kevin M. Gill © CC BY­­)

Data captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft is revealing incredible new images of Jupiter and its moon Ganymede.

In a blog post (opens in new tab) on Monday (Feb. 14), Juno mission team members shared images of a huge crater on Ganymede as well as a backlit picture of Jupiter that the spacecraft captured during its dips in and out of Jupiter's radiation-filled environment. 

"If you could ride along with NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it approaches Jupiter during one of its regular close passes by the giant planet, you would be treated to a striking vista similar to this one," the website stated about the Jupiter images.

In photos: NASA's Juno Mission to Jupiter

Dark rays of ejecta surround crater Kittu on Ganymede, in this Juno image. (Image credit: ASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing by Thomas Thomopoulos © CC BY)

The image of Ganymede (above) was captured during a June 2021 pass when Juno flew only 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) above Ganymede’s surface. Citizen scientist Thomas Thomopoulos created this enhanced-color image using data from the JunoCam camera.

The image shows the large crater Kittu, which is roughly 9 miles (15 kilometers) across and has darker material surrounding it that ejected when a small asteroid crashed into the surface. 

"Most of Ganymede's craters have bright rays extending from the impact scar, but about one percent of the craters have dark rays," the blog post stated. 

"Scientists believe that contamination from the impactor produced the dark rays," the post added. "As time passes, the rays stay dark because they are a bit warmer than the surroundings, so ice is driven off to condense on nearby colder, brighter terrain."

A backlit image of Jupiter captured by Juno. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Kevin M. Gill © CC BY­­)

Gill created the backlit image of Jupiter (above) using raw data from the JunoCam instrument, including seven images taken by Juno's 39th close pass of Jupiter on Jan. 12. 

NASA noted that this view of Jupiter is impossible from Earth, even in a telescope, because Jupiter's orbit is always outside Earth's and thus is only visible (from our planet) in full illumination from the sun.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.