Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Juno Spacecraft To Fly By Earth

Juno Spacecraft

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     NASA's Juno spacecraft will slingshot past Earth on October 9th for a velocity boost en route to Jupiter. At closest approach the spacecraft will be only 347 miles above Earth's surface. This map shows the spacecraft's ground track:

Juno Spacecraft's Ground Track

During the flyby, Juno's science instruments will be activated to sample the Earth environment--a practice run for data-taking when the spacecraft reaches Jupiter in 2016. Despite the shutdown of the US government, "the flyby will continue as planned," says Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute. "The commands associated with our instruments were already on board before the shutdown."

To celebrate this event, the Juno team invites amateur radio operators around the world to say "HI" to Juno in a coordinated Morse Code message. Juno's radio and plasma wave experiment, called Waves, should be able to detect the message if enough people participate. Please join in, and help spread the word to fellow amateur radio enthusiasts.

The spacecraft will not be visible to the unaided eye. Estimates of its maximum brightness range from magnitude +7.5 to +8.5. Such a faint object moving rapidly across the sky will be a challenge for even large backyard telescopes. There is a slim chance, however, that sky watchers could see a "Juno flare" if sunlight glints off the spacecraft's large solar arrays. Anyone who successfully photographs the spacecraft is encouraged to submit their images. . . .
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