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These two images are artists impressions of New Horizons at Jupiter. One image shows the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Earth to the left of the spacecraft, Jupiter to the right, and Jupiter's icy moon Europa above New Horizons. The other shows the spacecraft at closest approach to Jupiter, with the volcanic moon Io hovering over the giant planet.
Click on image for full size
Images courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

New Horizons Jupiter Flyby in February 2007

The New Horizons spacecraft flew past Jupiter on February 28, 2007. New Horizons, which was launched in January 2006, was just over a year into its 9-year trek to Pluto. The spacecraft got a gravity assist from Jupiter as it hurtled past the the giant planet while traveling at a speed of 21 km/sec (47,000 mph). The slingshot boost from the massive planet added 4 km/sec (9,000 mph) to New Horizon's speed, shaving years off its trip to distant Pluto.

The Jupiter encounter provided the New Horizons mission team with a great opportunity to hone their skills at controlling the spacecraft during a planetary flyby. Encounters such as this are complex; the spacecraft had to turn on and off its many instruments at just the right times, orient itself correctly as it zipped past the planet, and properly relay the data it gathered back to Earth. The mission scientists and engineers got a chance to practice their "planetary flyby choreography" at Jupiter as a warm up for the critical Pluto encounter eight years later. They also gathered some great new data about Jupiter, for New Horizons carries a suite of state-of-the-art instruments and high resolution cameras. At closest approach, the spacecraft passed within about 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) of Jupiter.

Last modified February 3, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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