Jupiter from a height

By Phil Plait | September 26, 2006 2:25 pm

What’s this?

If you said "Jupiter", then give yourself a pat on the back. But if you said "That’s just Jupiter" then kick yourself in the butt.

That ain’t just Jupiter. That’s Jupiter as seen from the New Horizons spacecraft, screaming past it at 75,000 kph and from a distance of nearly 300 million kilometers. That’s cool.

What’s cooler is that the camera on the probe is designed to look at Pluto, which is pretty faint. Jupiter is many things, but faint it ain’t (hey, I got to use that word twice in one blog entry). So this picture was snapped with an exposure time of just 6 milliseconds. 0.006 seconds.

That’s cool too.

This image isn’t any better than what you can do from terra firma with decent equipment, but New Horizons is still a ways off from Jupiter. For a final touch of cool, New Horizons is going to use Jupiter to accelerate and change its orbit, getting it to Pluto much faster than otherwise. The close encounter of the jovian kind will happen on February 28, 2007. I expect we’ll be getting some more amazing pictures by then, too.

Oh– the black spots on Jupiter are not evidence that NASA is turning Jupiter into a star. They are shadows of the moons Europa (left) and Io (right) on the cloud tops. The moons are just visible there too.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA, Science

Comments (17)

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  1. IT: Instructional Technology | September 26, 2006
  1. Roy Batty

    Nice. Moons of ice & fire :-)

  2. Mark Martin

    From Earth to Jupiter in only a little over one year. That’s sweet.

  3. Reno Bandit

    I dont understand how flying past a planet can shorten the trip. Sure, you accelerate as you head in towards Jupiter, but as you try to come away, you are slowed down just as much. Right?

  4. I don’t know, it sure looks like the star transformation process to me! Oh, and a guy named Bowman says Hi.

    I’m sure looking forward to the close ups of the second largest known dwarf planet. Now we need to schedule a mission to Eris – but we probably won’t be able to get anyone to agree to that.


  5. Chris

    Reno: Look at this from a heliocentric point of view. Imagine Jupiter is orbiting merrily along. New horzons approaches it slightly behind its orbital path. As new horizons swings around, its jupiterocentric (?) relative velocity is precisely mirrored on both sides, yes. However, relative to the sun, it gans the additional velocity in the direction of jupiter’s orbit, stealing a little bit of jupiter’s orbital velocity as it swings around behind it. So, in a heliocentric reference frame, it accelerates, and jupiter (very slightly) slows down.

  6. Kebsis

    How long will it take NH to get within distance of Pluto enough to get really nice pictures?

  7. Damien Evans

    several years yet, i think i read somewhere it will reach pluto arount 2015, does that sound about right?

  8. Ron S

    6 ms ain’t a fast exposure. My ancient 35 mm SLR with a mechanical shutter can do much better. I think that isn’t even fast for a cheap digital camera. Maybe 6 ms is good for the type of shutter or shutter-equivalent in this particular application???

  9. CR

    I think what’s cool is that the pic turned out so well, given the speed at which the “photographer” is moving, regardles of shutter speed… how well would an old 35mm SLR take a photo if it were moving at 75,000 kph?

    (Hmm, now that I’ve said that, I’d like to actually try it out somehow…)

  10. Pierre Sjöquist

    Here I was hoping for a slamdunk ‘2001’ reference, but all I got was a bunch of crazy conspirasy theorists…

    The world just ain’t fair.

    Cool picture btw

  11. Grand Lunar

    Neat effert by the New Horizons, capturing Jupiter several months before close approach.
    And the quality is much better than what I can get through my ‘scope.

    It’ll be a good trial run when it comes time for Jupiter. Then, onward to Pluto! And beyond!

  12. Nigel Depledge

    That’s a photo of Jupiter from 300 million km? As in, 2 AU (near as makes no odds)? That’s pretty impressive, although I guess it will be a while yet before New Horizons goes “screaming past” Jupiter, even at 75,000 kph.

    Looking at the picture, I thought “Jupiter and two of the Galilean satellites”, so I didn’t think it was just Jupiter, but I also didn’t work out it was taken by New Horizons until I read the text.

    I’m very much looking forward to more pictures from NH. Does anyone out there know if it will pass close enough to any of the other giant planets to photograph them on its journey to the Kuiper Belt?

  13. Heh, my name is on a CD that was launched with New Horizons. It’s good to know that something I share with other people has now been that close to the planet.

  14. Troy

    I’ve loved Alan Stern’s solioqueys about the status of “his” spacecraft. Is it just me or does the John Hopkins APL give much better spacecraft information than JPL ever has? The Cassini status reports always seemed better for Mr. Data, but the NH reports have been really nice and fun to read, like a human is on board.
    Getting to Jupiter in little over a year is amazing. I’ve went on the Peoria scale model solar system bike ride (Jupiter 3″ diameter 5 miles away from the 36′ sun), the inner planets you don’t have time to lose your breath, but Jupiter is a good 5 miles out you appreciate just how far away it is.

  15. Just imagine running like mad, grabbing a lampost with one hand using it to swing around and letting go almost as soon as you grabbed it and jumping … 😉

    NASA turn Jupiter into a star? No way! The Monoliths maybe .. 😉


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