NASA’s Juno Mission Returns First In-Orbit Image of Gas Giant Jupiter

Jupiter photo
The view from NASA's Juno spacecraft of the planet Jupiter. The planet's famous Great Red Spot can be seen, as well as three of its 67 moons. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter has sent back its first picture of the planet since going into orbit around it last week. The image shows a section of the gas giant, along with three of its 67 moons: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The snapshot has relieved scientists who worried that Jupiter’s radioactive environment may have damaged Juno’s equipment, the BBC reported.

The spacecraft, which reached the planet on July 5 after a five-year journey, is now moving away from Jupiter in its orbit but will return during August, hopefully allowing for it to take better pictures, The Telegraph reported.

Even though Tuesday’s photo was taken three million miles away from the planet, Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot (a storm that has lasted on the planet for hundreds of years) can clearly be seen.

While Juno travels, NASA’s scientists will begin checking its instruments, ensuring that they work ahead of the spacecraft entering a tighter orbit around Jupiter in October. It is during this month that the mission team will begin seriously studying the planet.

Over the next year and a half, scientists are hoping that via Juno they will gain greater understanding of how Jupiter formed. They want the spacecraft to transmit data about its structure and chemistry that will reveal how it was created.

At the moment scientists still don’t know if the planet has a solid core, nor what accounts for the magnetic field that surrounds it.