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Watch an epic time-lapse video of Jupiter's moons orbiting around the planet

NASA’s Juno spacecraft may be in orbit around Jupiter, but it’s going to be a while before the vehicle photographs its first up-close images of the gas giant. The probe’s instruments were all powered down for orbital insertion yesterday, and they won’t be turned back on for a couple of days. Plus, Juno is in a highly elliptical 53-day orbit around Jupiter, where it only spends a few hours super close to the planet. Right now, the spacecraft is sailing farther and farther away from Jupiter on its orbit, and it won’t be close to the planet again until August 27th.

A little teaser from the spacecraft’s final approach

But while we wait for the first juicy images from Juno to arrive, NASA provided a little teaser from the spacecraft’s final approach to the planet. Throughout June, the spacecraft snapped images of the Jovian system as it traveled closer and closer. The space agency strung those pictures along into a time-lapse, showing for the first time Jupiter’s moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto in orbit around the planet.

The images used for the video were taken between June 12th, when Juno was 10 million miles from Jupiter, and June 29th, when the spacecraft was 3 million miles away. The resulting footage is breathtaking, but as an added bonus, NASA turned the whole thing into a mini-trailer for the Juno mission. The video starts with a rendering of Galileo’s study, since the 17th century astronomer is credited with being the first to observe Jupiter’s moons orbit around the planet. The camera then zooms through Galileo’s telescope as the music swells, revealing the moons in motion.

It’s epic proof of what space exploration can accomplish and a reminder that August 27th can’t come fast enough.


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