What a view! Juno spacecraft flies past Earth, capturing the moment!
This may be the greatest gif ever. Captured above in gif form is the Earth and orbiting Moon as seen by the Juno spacecraft.
The Juno mission, launched in August 2011, is designed to learn more about how the biggest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, formed. Getting to Jupiter however, requires an interesting set of steps.
- First Juno must travel towards Jupiter, all the while loosing speed against the Sun’s gravitational force.
- Upon arriving at the asteroid belt, the Sun’s gravity will pull it back on a circuitous route towards Earth and away from Jupiter.
- Arriving at Earth and aided by the planet’s gravitational force, Juno will slingshot around the planet, gaining roughly 7.3 kilometer per second of speed through what is called a gravity assist. This will correct the course and Juno will once again be Jupiter bound!
- The gravity assist helps negate some of the effect of the Sun’s gravity on the spaceship, allowing it save on propellent cost, size, and time.
- Over the course of it’s journey, it will travel near 3 billion kilometers.
The images above were captured in October 2013 as Juno said good bye to Earth a second time, and give us a unique glimpse of our Moon orbiting Earth, and a fleeting of what it looks like to travel in space.
Of this spectacular capture, Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton had this to say,
"If Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise said, ‘Take us home, Scotty,’ this is what the crew would see… No previous view of our world has ever captured the heavenly waltz of Earth and moon.”
Overall, it will take Juno 5 years, even with the gravity assist, to get to Jupiter. I’m just glad to gave us this parting gift before it settles in for the longest part of its journey.
- Gif of Juno flying past Earth: NASA, JPL, 2013.
- Image of Earth capture by Juno: NASA, JPL, 2013.
Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: December 10, 2013.