NASA Prepares for a Close Encounter With Ganymede, the Largest Moon of the Solar System

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Ganymede is one of the most mysterious objects in our Solar System. Apart from being the largest moon, revolving around Jupiter (the largest planet), and even larger than the planet Mercury, Ganymede has characteristics that require closer observations from astronomers.

NASA’s Juno mission started to gather data about Jupiter and its numerous moons in 2016, and now, according to CNN, it will aim its gear towards Ganymede more than before. Juno will come at less than 645 miles of the surface of Jupiter’s moon, with the purpose of gathering data about the composition of the space object.

The closest distance to Ganymede a spacecraft has been since 2000

About 21 years ago, a spacecraft named Galileo approached Ganymede at a similarly close distance as the Juno will.

Scott Bolton, who is the principal investigator of Juno at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, declared:

Juno carries a suite of sensitive instruments capable of seeing Ganymede in ways never before possible,
By flying so close, we will bring the exploration of Ganymede into the 21st century, both complementing future missions with our unique sensors and helping prepare for the next generation of missions to the Jovian system — NASA’s Europa Clipper and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission.

Scott Bolton also added that the Microwave Radiometer mounted on Juno will provide an in-depth investigation of how the composition and structure of Ganymede’s ice vary with depth. This will lead to a better understanding of the ice shell of the moon, as well as its formation and processes that resurface the ice.

Similar to another moon named Europa, Ganymede is believed to have a subsurface ocean with a liquid iron and nickel core beneath. The core of Ganymede itself helps generate a magnetic field for the moon, which is another notable fact.

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