Last month, NASA’s Juno snapped the closest images of the Jovian moon Ganymede in two decades. Visual artists stitched together those incredible images and Juno’s subsequent flyby of Jupiter and created an incredible 3D animation that lets you fly over the largest moon of the solar system before meeting the largest planet in the solar system.
The visuals were created using the real images taken by the spacecraft’s JunoCam that were prepared by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt and then projected onto digital spheres. Animators Koji Kuramura and Mike Stetson created the flyby from world to world.
On June 7, Juno was just 1,038 kilometers (645 miles) from the surface of Ganymede delivering a detailed picture of the moon. Then 14 hours and 50 minutes later, Juno crossed the 1.18 million kilometers (735,00 miles) separating the moon from Jupiter. It then surveyed the planet, just 3,400 kilometers (2,100 miles) above its clouds.
And you can take this phenomenal planetary journey in just 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
“The animation shows just how beautiful deep space exploration can be,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator for Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement. “The animation is a way for people to imagine exploring our solar system firsthand by seeing what it would be like to be orbiting Jupiter and flying past one of its icy moons. Today, as we approach the exciting prospect of humans being able to visit space in orbit around Earth, this propels our imagination decades into the future, when humans will be visiting the alien worlds in our solar system.”
The flyby of Ganymede wasn’t just an important observations mission it was also crucial for the navigation of the spacecraft. Being the biggest moon in the solar system, Ganymede exerts quite the gravitational pull and the team used it to change Juno’s orbit. The spacecraft now goes around Jupiter every 43 days rather than 53 days.
Juno’s next flyby of the planet is scheduled for July 21. This will be the 35th since the beginning of the mission. This was supposed to be its final perijove ending into the planet, but the mission was extended again. Currently, the extended second mission is scheduled to end in September 2025.