NASA's Juno Captures Earth-Moon Dancing [Videos]
A latest video by the U.S. space agency NASA shows Earth and Moon waltzing around in space. The stunning images were taken by the Jupiter-bound spacecraft, Juno.
Juno is on its course to reach Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The video shows how a distant visitor would see "our pale blue dot."
"If Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise said, 'Take us home, Scotty,' this is what the crew would see. 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," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.
Music for the amazing video is composed by Vangelis, the agency said.
Shooting a Movie in Space
Juno is currently travelling at twice the speed of a normal satellite and spinning at 2rpm. The camera- Advanced Color Compass (ASC) -that filmed the exquisite dance is located on one of the spacecraft's solar arrays. ASC is primarily used as a star tracker to orient the craft.
A continuous movie captured by Juno would look very hazy, which is why, the star tracker captured one frame at a time. The frames were then sent to earth, where scientists sewed them into a video.
"The big trick for a low-light camera like this was to tune it in a way that we were able to get images of a very bright object," scientist John Jorgensen of the Danish Technical University, near Copenhagen, told BBC.
"Everything we humans are and everything we do is represented in that view," Jørgensen said in a news release.
Juno was launched in 2011. Scientists designed the swing by Earth as a measure to increase the probe's speed. The craft swung by Earth on Oct. 9, 2013, receiving a boost of more than 8,800 mph. The flyby not only helped the craft set its course to the Giant Planet, but also helped it capture some amazing images.
During the flyby in October, Juno's Waves instrument recorded a message from Earth. The agency had invited amateur (ham) radio operators around the world to say 'hi' to the craft as it flew by Earth.
"The idea was to coordinate the efforts of amateur radio operators all over the world, and send a message in Morse code that could be received by the University of Iowa-designed-and-built instrument on the Juno spacecraft," said Donald Kirchner, University of Iowa research engineer on Juno, according to a news release. "We know that over a thousand participated, and probably many more than that."
Juno Mission Update
The craft has already travelled 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion kilometers, or 11.9 AU) since 2011. NASA says that the craft appears to be in good condition and that the mission is 'near perfect.'
On December 6, 2013, Juno was about 61 million miles from Earth. Its current velocity relative to Sun is nearly 20 miles (32 kilometers) per second.
See a video of Juno's Trajectory Animation, here.
Good Luck, Juno!