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NASA’s Juno spacecraft sends back first image of Jupiter and its moons

Posted at 1:08 PM, Jul 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-13 13:08:31-04

NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter has returned its first image after being sent into orbit last week.

The picture, taken from the spacecraft’s JunoCam camera 2.7 million miles away from Jupiter, shows the planet’s famous Great Red Spot as well as three of its four largest moons — Io, Europa and Ganymede.

Its second-largest moon, Callisto, is not in sight.

The Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit on July 4 and took the image around six days later.

While the first high-resolution images of the gas giant are still a few weeks away, scientists are very pleased with the first image, which means the mission is so far a success.

“This scene from JunoCam indicates it survived its first pass through Jupiter’s extreme radiation environment without any degradation and is ready to take on Jupiter,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement.

“We can’t wait to see the first view of Jupiter’s poles.”

The Juno spacecraft is now moving away from Jupiter on a large arc but will move in again in August, enabling the JunoCam on board to take more close-up images.

The aim of its mission is to help scientists to understand more about the largest planet in our solar system, which is the fifth planet away from the sun.

Although JunoCam’s images will be helpful to the science team, the primary purpose of the images is to help with public engagement.

With this in mind, NASA tweeted the picture on its official Twitter account for the mission, where it has so far received over five thousand likes.

Juno was launched in 2011, and is the second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter after Galileo, which orbited the planet from 1995-2003.

Juno’s mission is due to end in 2018, when the spacecraft will be crashed into the planet in order to prevent it causing any damage to Jupiter’s moons.