On June 7 of this year, the NASA Juno spacecraft flew closer to Jupiter’s frigid moon Ganymede than any other spacecraft in the last 20 years. Later the same day, Juno made its 34th flyby of Jupiter. NASA has offered a new animation that provides a “starship captain” point of view of each flyby.
To create the animation, NASA used JunoCam images orthographically projected onto a digital sphere. Synthetic frames were added to provide views of approach and departure from Jupiter and Ganymede. Juno was traveling at a high rate of speed and transversed the rolling atmosphere of Jupiter from pole to pole in less than three hours.
Scott Bolton, principal investigator for Juno, said the animation shows how beautiful deep space exploration can be. Bolton says the animation is a way for people to imagine exploring the solar system firsthand allowing them to see what it would be like to orbit Jupiter and fly past its icy moon. The animation is three minutes and 30 seconds long, starting with Juno approaching Ganymede.
The spacecraft approached within 645 miles of the surface at a relative velocity of 41,600 mph. The animation shows some of the dark and light regions of the moon as well as a crater known as Tros. Juno traveled the 735,000 miles between Ganymede and Jupiter in 14 hours and 50 minutes.
From the perspective of the video, the viewer is within 2100 miles of the tops of the clouds in Jupiter’s atmosphere. The gravity of the massive planet accelerates the spacecraft to almost 130,000 mph relative to the planet. The animation shows many of the iconic atmospheric features of Jupiter, including the circumpolar cyclones of the North Pole and five of the gas giant’s string of pearls which are massive storms in the southern hemisphere that look like white ovals. The animation is definitely worth a watch and can be seen above.