If you had any doubts about whether NASA’s Juno spacecraft survived its 2 billion mile journey to Jupiter and successfully braved the solar system’s most intense bands of radiation to begin its orbit around the planet, let this picture put your mind at ease.
On Sunday, JunoCam, the spacecraft’s visible light camera, turned on and snapped its first photos of its journey around the gas giant from about 2.7 million miles away.
“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,” noted Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a statement. “We can’t wait to see the first view of Jupiter’s poles.”
The image shows Jupiter and three of its largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede (from left to right). If you look closely enough, you can even see the Great Red Spot, the giant storm marring the face of the planet.
On August 27, Juno will take its first high-resolution images when it makes one of its closest passes to Jupiter (only 2,600 miles from the planet’s cloud tops). The JunoCam will give scientists never-before-seen views of Jupiter’s poles and cloud tops. It will also track any changes in the planets appearance when the planet orbits out of sight from the Earth.
On later orbits, NASA will have a popular vote to give the public a chance to choose what the JunoCam takes pictures of. But for now, scientists are just thrilled that everything seems to be in order, and Juno’s photography career is off to an impressive start.
“We’re quite pleased that we survived going through Jupiter orbit insertion,” Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, a scientist at Planetary Science Institute who is responsible for the operation of the camera, told the New York Times. “The fact it’s a beautiful image is already a good thing.”
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