The highest resolution photo NASA Juno mission has taken from a portion of the Jupiter’s moon Europa reveals a puzzling region of strongly fractured icy crust.
Observations of the spacecraft’s moonwalk provided the first close-up in more than two decades of this sub-ocean world, resulting in remarkable images and unique science.
The image covers approximately 150 by 200 kilometers of Europa’s surface, revealing a region criss-crossed by a network of fine ridges and double ridges (pairs of long parallel lines that indicate raised features in the ice).
Near the top right of the image, as well as just to the right and below centerthere are dark spots possibly linked to something below the surface. Below center and to the right is a surface feature resembling a musical black note, measuring 67 kilometers north to south by 037 kilometers east to west. The white dots in the image are signatures of penetrating high-energy particles from the harsh radiation environment around the moon.
Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit (SRU), a stellar camera used to orient the spacecraft, obtained the black-and-white image during the spacecraft’s flyby of Europa on September 29, 2022, at a distance of approximately 412 kilometres. With a resolution ranging from 256 to 340 meters per pixel, the image was captured as Juno passed at about 24 kilometers per second over a part of the surface that was at night, dimly lit by “Jupiter’s glow”: sunlight reflects off Jupiter’s cloud tops.
“This image is unlocking an incredible level of detail in a region that has not previously been imaged at such resolution and under such revealing lighting conditions,” Heidi Becker, SRU co-principal investigator, said in a statement. “The team’s use of a star-tracking camera for science is a great example of Juno’s innovative capabilities. These features are so intriguing. Understanding how they formed, and how they connect to Europa’s history, tells us about the internal and external processes that shape the icy crust”.
It won’t just be Juno’s SRU scientists who will be busy analyzing data in the coming weeks. During Juno’s 45th orbit around Jupiter, all of the spacecraft’s science instruments collected data during the Europa flyby and then again when Juno flew over Jupiter’s poles about 7 1/2 hours later.
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