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These two pictures show how an artist thinks New Horizons will look at Jupiter. In one picture the Sun and the planets Mercury, Venus and Earth are to the left of the spacecraft. Jupiter is the right of the spacecraft, and Jupiter's icy moon Europa is above New Horizons. In the other picture New Horizons is very close to Jupiter. Jupiter's moon Io (which has volcanoes!) is in front of the giant planet.
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Images courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

New Horizons Flies By Jupiter in February 2007

The New Horizons spacecraft is on its way to Pluto. Along the way, it flew past the giant planet Jupiter. When the spacecraft flew by Jupiter, Jupiter's strong gravity gave New Horizons a "slingshot boost" in speed. The boost added 4 km/sec (9,000 mph) to the spacecraft's speed. That's quite a boost! The extra speed will make New Horizon's trip to Pluto take less time. Still, the spacecraft won't reach Pluto until 2015!

New Horizons blasted off in January 2006. It flew by Jupiter on February 28, 2007. It was going about 21 km/sec (47,000 mph) when it zoomed past Jupiter! But Pluto is very far away. Even at these high speeds, it will take New Horizons about nine years to go from Earth to Pluto.

New Horizons took some good pictures of Jupiter and gathered other data when New Horizons flew past the planet. The spacecraft has very good cameras and other instruments on board.

The New Horizons team also got to practice a planetary flyby. When a spacecraft flies past a planet, it needs to make a lot of complicated moves. It needs to point its cameras the right way. It needs to turn instruments on and off at the right times. And it needs to radio the data it collects back to Earth. The New Horizons team got to practice all of this when the spacecraft flew past Jupiter. Then they will be ready when New Horizons finally makes it to Pluto!

Last modified February 3, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA