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Hubble snaps Jupiter's rare triple moon transit

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Posted at 10:14 PM, Feb 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-05 23:28:03-05

Jupiter, you’ve got something on your face.

NASA released photos of a rare triple transit of Jupiter Thursday. The Hubble Space Telescope photo shows the three moons – rocky Callisto, volcanic Io and icy Europa crossing the face of the giant planet.

Triple transits are rare. The next one isn’t scheduled until 2032, according to Space.com. The one that occurred on Jan. 24 lasted about 40 minutes.

Each dot is about the size of Earth’s moon, making them among the largest moons in the solar system. Ganymede, which missed the photo shoot, is bigger than the planet Mercury. The black spots are shadows.

The Obama administration’s 2016 budget request allocates $30 million to work on a space mission to Europa – the white dot at the bottom of the photograph.

Europa, which is encased in ice, is considered a likely candidate for extraterrestrial life. Underneath that ice may be an ocean of liquid water. The mission to Europa could launch by 2022.

The four largest moons of Jupiter were first observed by Galileo in the 1600s.

Find out more about the proposed Europa mission in this Newsy video:

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.