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Postcards from Jupiter

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Postcards from Jupiter

Postby knapplc » Wed May 02, 2007 9:28 am

You all may remember the New Horizons probe that NASA launched out to Pluto. They're using the gravitational field of Jupiter to give it a boost on its journey out there, and on the way by they used the opportunity to calibrate some of the equipment, including the cameras. Here's the article, followed by some pretty cool pics...

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Small moons are acting as shepherds using their gravity to herd dust and boulders in Jupiter's faint rings, NASA scientists reported on Tuesday.

The finding is one of several discoveries made from images captured in late February by the New Horizons probe in what NASA scientists called "a real-world fly-by" of Jupiter, 16 months into its mission to Pluto.

They also got the closest look yet at the "Little Red Spot," an Earth-sized swirling storm that scientists described as a galactic rendition of Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" painting, and dramatic views of volcanic eruptions on Jupiter's moon Io.

These postcards from Jupiter were taken by the piano-sized robotic probe's seven cameras as it came within 1.4 million miles of Jupiter on February 28. About 70 percent of the data has been relayed to Earth so far.

The close encounter allowed New Horizons to make use of Jupiter's gravity to shave three years from its travel time to Pluto. It is expected to arrive in 2015.

The encounter with Jupiter "was a chance to practice ... before the rubber hits the road" with Pluto, Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, told a televised news briefing.

Pictures of Jupiter's faint rings revealed the moons Metis and Adrastea herding rocks with their gravitational pull.

"The boulder-sized particles are definitely being controlled by these shepherding satellites," Jeff Moore of the NASA Ames Research Center in California told the briefing.

Also spied was what appeared to be remnants of an object that had recently collided with the rings. "Individual clusters of particles in the rings is a really new discovery," Moore said.

MYSTERY VOLCANO

On Jupiter's volcanic moon Io, New Horizons revealed an umbrella-shaped plume rising 200 miles into space from the volcano Tvashtar.

"It's really exciting that it performed for us," said John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

"Galileo was orbiting for six years and we never saw plumes like that," he said, referring to an earlier mission.

The probe also revealed a mystery volcano, so young its lava has just reached Io's surface, but has yet to emit enough gas to produce a plume.

"We're seeing the birth of a new volcano here," Spencer said.

In about eight years, the mission will produce the closest-ever views of Pluto and the hundreds of other icy objects in the distant Kuiper belt region.

But for now, the NASA scientists are happy with the test drive.

"I think we're ready to rock and roll." Stern said.


Some pictures the probe sent back:

Jupiter's Atmosphere, including the Great Red Spot:
Image

Three views of Ganymede:
Image

Ganymede casting its shadow over Jupiter with Io in the background:
Image

Io and Europa - two ships passing in the eternal night:
Image

The four Gallilean Moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto:
Image

Closeup of a volcanic plume over Io:
Image

The "Little Red Spot" which is about the size of Earth:
Image
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Postby Dan Lambskin » Wed May 02, 2007 9:44 am

the title sounds like it should be a chick-flick starring Reese Witherspoon and Jeff Goldblum where he is an alien and falls in love with her
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Postby Coppermine » Wed May 02, 2007 9:47 am

Dan Lambskin wrote:the title sounds like it should be a chick-flick starring Reese Witherspoon and Jeff Goldblum where he is an alien and falls in love with her


I was afraid this was going to be about that horrible song that makes me want to kill myself every time I hear it... "The best soy latte you ever had and me....."

Ugh, worst lyrics ever.

But it's not, and it's cool ;-D
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Postby Madison » Wed May 02, 2007 4:52 pm

Those are some cool pictures. ;-D


Surprised we didn't abort this "mission" to Pluto since Pluto got demoted awhile back. :-D
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Postby StlSluggers » Wed May 02, 2007 5:37 pm

I love knowing that all this cool crap is just happening out there without a lick of concern for our puny existence here on earth.

So cool. ;-D
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Postby BitterDodgerFan » Thu May 03, 2007 2:39 am

awesome pics!

i dont get the 2nd pic though. the three views one.

they should try to land one of those rovers there. how long does a voyage to jupiter take anyways?
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Postby knapplc » Thu May 03, 2007 8:27 am

BitterDodgerFan wrote:awesome pics!

i dont get the 2nd pic though. the three views one.

they should try to land one of those rovers there. how long does a voyage to jupiter take anyways?


This is what NASA says about those three images of Ganymede:

NASA wrote:This montage compares New Horizons' best views of Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, gathered with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and its infrared spectrometer, the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA).

LEISA observes its targets in more than 200 separate wavelengths of infrared light, allowing detailed analysis of their surface composition. The LEISA image shown here combines just three of these wavelengths - 1.3, 1.8 and 2.0 micrometers - to highlight differences in composition across Ganymede's surface. Blue colors represent relatively clean water ice, while brown colors show regions contaminated by dark material.

The right panel combines the high-resolution grayscale LORRI image with the color-coded compositional information from the LEISA image, producing a picture that combines the best of both data sets.

The LEISA and LORRI images were taken at 9:48 and 10:01 Universal Time, respectively, on February 27, 2007, from a range of 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles). The longitude of the disk center is 38 degrees west. With a diameter of 5,268 kilometers (3,273 miles), Ganymede is the largest satellite in the solar system.


It takes about 15-16 months to get from here to Jupiter, two planets away. I think they could send landers there and probably will in our lifetime. They're particularly interested in Europa, which they think could harbor a liquid water ocean underneath its cap of ice, and hence possibly life.
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