The Juno spacecraft, which is making its flybys of Jupiter since 2016, has sent back stunning images of the biggest planet of our solar system this week. Launched by NASA in 2011, the massive spacecraft made its 37th flyby this week and celebrated its 10th year of operation in August this year. With the data sent from millions of miles away, NASA has released the images on its official website In the above image, the spacecraft stunningly captured the dense clouds of dust blending into each other and Jupiter’s famous giant red spot, which is a raging storm going on for years, can also be spotted. The spacecraft lifted off from NASA’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5, 2011, with an aim to study Jupiter’s magnetosphere, its composition, and its atmosphere as a whole. As per NASA, the goal of the spacecraft was to enter orbit around the planet and use its suite of scientific instruments and cameras to observe Jupiter’s atmosphere, gravity and magnetic fields. With Juno finally getting so close to Jupiter, the scientists believe that the spectacular images it keeps sending can open new horizons about its origins and evolution.
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Interestingly, along with nine scientific instruments, Juno carries two categories of items of historical and educational significance. The first is a plaque provided by the Italian Space Agency that depicts a portrait of Galileo and a text in Galileo’s own handwriting which was penned in January 1610. The other items are three LEGO mini-figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno, and Galileo carrying a telescope for inspiring children to explore a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
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The reason why Galileo has been given such importance is that it was this Italian astronomer who discovered Jupiter’s four biggest moons, which are now known as Galilean satellites. Recently, the spacecraft flew by the largest moon of both Jupiter and our solar system, Ganymede just a few months prior to its 10-year launch anniversary.