NASA’s Juno mission has made an exciting discovery on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, as it detected mineral salts and organic compounds on the moon’s surface. The data was collected by the Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) spectrometer during a close flyby of Ganymede. This finding is particularly significant because it confirms the presence of salts and organics on the moon, which has long been a subject of interest among scientists.
Previous observations had hinted at the existence of salts and organics on Ganymede, but the low spatial resolution of those observations prevented a definitive determination. However, on June 7, 2021, Juno flew over Ganymede at a minimum altitude of 650 miles, allowing it to collect high-resolution infrared images and spectra of the moon’s surface. This breakthrough was made possible by the exceptional spatial resolution of the JIRAM data, which enabled scientists to detect and analyze the unique spectral features of non-water-ice materials.
The presence of ammoniated salts suggests that Ganymede may have accumulated materials cold enough to condense ammonia during its formation. Additionally, the carbonate salts discovered could be remnants of carbon dioxide-rich ices. The shielding of Ganymede’s equatorial region from energetic particles by Jupiter’s magnetic field may have preserved these salts and organics over time.
This discovery provides valuable insights into Ganymede’s composition and history, particularly its deep ocean. Ganymede’s vast internal ocean, hidden beneath its icy crust, has been a subject of fascination for researchers. Understanding the minerals and compounds present on the moon’s surface helps shed light on the complex processes that have shaped Ganymede’s evolution.
In addition to Ganymede, Juno has also observed other moons of Jupiter during flybys, such as Europa and Io. The mission’s upcoming close approach to Io is scheduled for December 30, promising even more intriguing discoveries about the Jovian system.
The Juno mission’s ongoing exploration of Jupiter and its moons continues to unravel the mysteries of our solar system’s largest planet and its fascinating satellite system. The findings from Juno’s close flyby of Ganymede undoubtedly contribute to our understanding of planetary formation and provide valuable insights into the potential for life beyond Earth.
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