It’s been some time now since NASA’s Cassini orbiter crashed on Saturn and left us all wanting more of its fantastic photos and observations, but that reliable little spacecraft wasn’t the only one NASA has cruising around our Solar System. Juno, the Jupiter orbiter that arrived at the massive planet in July of last year, just popped in with a fantastic new photo to remind us all that there are still plenty of awesome sights to see in our celestial backyard.
The image, which has been color-enhanced after the fact, shows a slice of the mighty Jupiter along with its two largest satellites, Io and Europa, all bathed in sunlight. It’s a rare treat for all of us amateur skywatchers to see the gas giant and two of its most iconic moons all sharing a frame, but it’s the distance at which the photo was taken that is particularly jaw-dropping.
As NASA explains in its posting of the photo, at the time the image was captured, Juno was some 17,098 miles from the cloud tops of Jupiter itself. Meanwhile, Io — the larger moon closer to Jupiter in the image — is sitting at an altitude of 298,880 miles. Even farther away, Europa is seen at an altitude of 453,601 miles.
The photo was captured during Juno’s eighth flyby of Jupiter. The spacecraft is slated to study Jupiter for roughly two years as part of its primary mission, following its half-decade trip to the planet. That might not seem like a long time, but there’s a good possibility that Juno will extend its mission significantly, and if its adventure proves to be even a fraction as fruitful as that of its brother, Cassini, we can expect stunning photos like this one to keep trickling in for years to come.