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December 11, 2013

Juno Probe Captures Stunning Earth-Moon Dance

by VOA News

As NASA’s Juno spacecraft was slingshot around Earth on October 9, it sent back some incredible images of the Earth-moon system as seen from a distance.

Juno, which is headed to Jupiter, needed the trip around Earth in order to increase its speed as it heads to the gas giant for a July 4, 2016 rendezvous.

"If Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise said, 'Take us home, Scotty,' this is what the crew would see," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. "In the movie, you ride aboard Juno as it approaches Earth and then soars off into the blackness of space. No previous view of our world has ever captured the heavenly waltz of Earth and moon."

The imagery begins when Juno was 966,000 kilometers away -- about three times the Earth-moon separation.

During the flyby, timing was everything. Juno was traveling about twice as fast as a typical satellite, and the spacecraft itself was spinning at two rotations per minute. To assemble a movie that wouldn't make viewers dizzy, the spacecraft had to capture a frame each time the camera was facing Earth at exactly the right instant. The frames were sent to Earth, where they were processed into video format.

After Juno arrives and begins to orbit Jupiter in 2016, the spacecraft will circle the planet 33 times, from pole to pole, and use its collection of science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant's obscuring cloud cover. Scientists will learn about Jupiter's origins, internal structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Juno's name comes from Greek and Roman mythology.

Here's the full video: