Juno spacecraft spots Jupiter’s tiny moon Amalthea

Juno spacecraft spots Jupiter's tiny moon Amalthea during its 59th close flyby of the giant planet on March 7, 2024
Juno spacecraft spots Jupiter’s tiny moon Amalthea during its 59th close flyby of the giant planet on March 7, 2024. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, spotted Jupiter’s tiny moon Amalthea on March 7, 2024, during its 59th close flyby of the giant planet.

The spacecraft was about 165,000 miles (265,000 kilometers) above Jupiter when the image was taken.

Besides this tiny moon, the new image shows Jupiter’s colorful belts and swirling storms, including the Great Red Spot.

Juno spacecraft spots Jupiter's tiny moon Amalthea during its 59th close flyby of the giant planet on March 7, 2024 (broad view)
Juno spacecraft spots Jupiter’s tiny moon Amalthea during its 59th close flyby of the giant planet on March 7, 2024 (broad view). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

Amalthea is the fifth largest moon of Jupiter after the four Galilean moons (Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa). Amalthea has a potato-like shape with a mean radius of only 52 miles (84 kilometers). Its self-gravity couldn’t make it a sphere due to its small size.

Amalthea orbits about 181,400 km above Jupiter and takes only half Earth days (12 hours) to complete one orbit. Amalthea is tidally locked with Jupiter due to its very close orbit, meaning the same side of Amalthea always faces Jupiter. Since Amalthea’s orbit is very close to Jupiter, its orbit will eventually decay and crash into Jupiter some day.

Amalthea withstands Jupiter’s powerful magnetic radiation due to its close orbit, which induces electric currents in its core. As a result, it appears to give out more heat than it receives from the sun, making Amalthea the reddest object in the solar system.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which is named after the Roman goddess Juno (the wife of Jupiter), was launched on August 5, 2011.

The spacecraft arrived at Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016, and completed its primary mission in July 2021.

Currently, the spacecraft is on its extended mission, and it will continue its investigation of the solar system’s largest planet through September 2025, or until the spacecraft’s end of life.

The spacecraft has completed its latest 61st close flyby of Jupiter on May 12, 2024.

Related articles:

Juno spacecraft captures largest lava lake in our solar system

Juno captures stunning images of Jupiter’s moon Io during its first closest flyby

Juno captures stunning images of Jupiter’s moon Io during its second closest flyby

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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