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Juno closing in on Jupiter, sends first photograph

As it closes in on its research target, NASA probe Juno has sent back a photograph of Jupiter and four of its moons.


Just as Cassini has spent 12 years giving us an unprecedented look at Saturn, so too does NASA hope the Juno probe will provide invaluable information about our solar system's biggest planetary resident. After nearly five years en route to Jupiter, Juno has nearly arrived at its destination.

And it's sent back a little teaser of what's to come: a colour photograph of Jupiter and its four largest moons. Clockwise from top left, the white dots are Ganymede, Io, Europa and Callisto, with Jupiter appearing in yellow on the right, its cloud bands just visible. This image was taken on June 21, while Juno was still nearly a fortnight from its destination, with Juno's high-res optical camera, the JunoCam. The images are only going to get more spectacular from here.

When Juno arrives on July 4, it's going to enter a polar orbit around Jupiter. From there, it will study the planet's poles, composition, atmosphere and magnetosphere, weather and gravity.

"This image is the start of something great," said southwest Research Institute Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton. "In the future we will see Jupiter's polar auroras from a new perspective. We will see details in rolling bands of orange and white clouds like never before, and even the Great Red Spot."