NASA spacecraft returns first image of Jupiter since entering orbit

Picture also shows three of massive planet's four largest moons

nasa, juno, jupiter

This colour view is made from some of the first images taken after the spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter | Image: NASA

The first in-orbit image of Jupiter has been taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft.

It is hoped the mission will give some insight into the origins of the biggest planet in the solar system and how it impacted the rise of life on Earth.

The image, which was acquired on Sunday, shows atmospheric features on Jupiter, including the Great Red Spot, and three of the massive planet's four largest moons - Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The first high-resolution images of the planet are still a few weeks away.

Launched from Florida nearly five years ago, Juno needed to be precisely positioned, ignite its main engine at exactly the right time and keep it firing for 35 minutes to become only the second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter.

The spacecraft will circle the planet 37 times during the mission, soaring low over its cloud tops - as close as about 2,600 miles.

The probe will hunt for water in Jupiter's thick atmosphere, a key yardstick for figuring out how far away from the sun the gas giant formed.

Footage released by NASA last week shows Juno finally approaching the planet and its surrounding moons.

The video begins on June 12th, with Juno 10 million miles from the planet, and ends on June 29th, three million miles away.