The spacecraft is also expected to gather data on the moon’s interior, where a salty ocean is believed to exist.
A NASA spacecraft will fly past one of the most interesting spots in our solar system on Thursday.
The Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, was scheduled to make its closest approach to the moon Europa by flying at a distance of 222 miles (358 km) from its frozen surface.
Juno will take some of the highest-resolution images ever taken of the moon’s icy shell. The spacecraft is also expected to gather data on the moon’s interior, where a salty ocean is believed to exist.
The ice shell that lies on the moon’s surface is between 10 and 15 miles (16 and 24 km) thick, and the ocean it likely sits on top of is estimated to be 40 to 100 miles (64 to 161 km) deep.
Juno’s Microwave Radiometer instrument will study the ice’s crust to determine more about its temperature and composition. It is the first time that this kind of information will be collected about its frozen shell.
The data and images captured by Juno could help inform its Europa Clipper mission NASAwhich will launch in 2024.
The Europa Clipper can help scientists determine whether an internal ocean exists and whether the moon — one of several orbiting Jupiter — has the potential to be habitable.
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