If this doesn’t tug at your heart’s space strings, I don’t know what will.
What we’re seeing here is a video made from images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it flew past Earth on October 9, 2013. This is the first time a video has been made of the Moon orbiting our planet from beyond the Earth-Moon system*, and, in effect, it’s what a future human space traveler would see as they return home.
Last Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, NASA’s Juno spacecraft made a slingshot pass of Earth in order to get the necessary speed boost to reach Jupiter in 2016. As it came within 347 miles of our planet’s surface, passing closest over the southern Atlantic at 3:21 p.m. EDT, it used its JunoCam (developed by the San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems) to take images along the way. This is one of them, and it gives us a spacecraft’s-eye-view of the Atlantic and the eastern coast of Argentina.
Acquired in March 2007, this eerie image from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys’s ultraviolet camera show glowing auroral emissions, always present in Jupiter’s polar regions.
The aurora is hundreds of kilometers wide and about 250 kilometers above the planet. It is caused by electrically charged particles striking atoms in the upper atmosphere from above, the same process involved in Earth’s aurorae (except that Jupiter’s magnetic field is orders of magnitude more powerful than Earth’s!)
Jupiter is our solar system’s resident behemoth. It’s an enormous planet that has more mass than all the others combined, not to mention the largest gravitational and magnetic influence in the solar system (besides the Sun, of coourse.) It’s no wonder that it also has the most moons in orbit around it than any of the other planets as well… at last count 64 known natural satellites!
Oh wait, make that 66.
New research on Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa indicates the presence of a subsurface lake buried beneath frozen mounds of huge jumbled chunks of ice. While it has long been believed that Europa’s ice lies atop a deep underground ocean, these new findings support the possibility of large pockets of liquid water being much closer to the moon’s surface — as well as energy from the Sun — and ultimately boosting the possibility that Europa could harbor life.
“Now we see evidence that it’s a thick ice shell that can mix vigorously, and new evidence for giant shallow lakes. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable.”
– Britney Schmidt, Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas at Austin
(Can’t see the video below? Click here.)
Today, at 12:25 pm EDT, an Atlas V 551 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base with the Juno spacecraft aboard, headed for the planet Jupiter. And I was there, along with 149 other “space tweeps”, watching from the press site at Kennedy Space Center. It was awesome, and here’s the video!
I tried to capture not only the launch but also the excitement of all those watching, as that’s definitely a big part of the experience.
…at the launch of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, that’s where!
NASA is holding yet another Tweetup event at Kennedy Space Center next week, focusing on the launch of the long-awaited Juno mission to Jupiter. Even before I left for the Tweetup for the Atlantis flight I had put my name in the hat for the Juno event, and although I was put on a waiting list initially, I ended up getting onto the list some days afterward! So this will be two major launches in less than a month for me. Unbelievable.
I can’t wait!