Mighty Jupiter moon Ganymede pictured in close-up
The US space agency's Juno probe has provided some close-up images of Ganymede - one of Jupiter's four Galilean moons and the largest natural satellite in the solar system.
The pictures were taken from a distance of approximately 1,000 km.
It is the closest spaceship Ganymede was away in more than 20 years.
Junos was a casual passport; his daily duties are to study Jupiter. But the European Space Agency will soon be sending its own mission.
The JUpiter ICy Moon Explorer, or Juice for short, will make a series of flybys past two other Galilean moons, Callisto and Europa, before going into fixed orbit around Ganymede, expected in 2032.
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Juno's images show the crashed and cracked surface of the great moon in remarkable detail. They are compared to the images taken by NASA's Galileo (1995-2003) and Voyager (1979) probes to see if there has been any change over time.
"This is the next spacecraft that has come closest to this mammoth moon in a generation," said Juno chief researcher Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "We'll take our time before drawing any scientific conclusions, but until then we can just marvel at this heavenly wonder."
With a diameter of 5,268 km, Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system
One of the fascinations of Ganymede - and Callisto and Europe - is that they all likely have oceans of water beneath their ice surface.
Nasa says it will be releasing color pictures of Junos Ganymede flyby shortly.
Esa's JUpiter ICy Moon Explorer is scheduled to launch from Earth next year
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