New Horizons and Jupiter

On January 19th 2006, the spacecraft New Horizons was launched on its long journey to dwarf planet Pluto. New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet although it won't be hanging around when it finally gets there in July 2015; it will be passing by at a zippy 14 kilometres per second (Mission Guide, page 4). Back at the end of February, New Horizons zoomed past Jupiter. In doing so it received a gravity assist which boosted the speed of New Horizons by about 9000 mph. That helps it get to Pluto more quickly but also gave an opportunity to test the instruments by making some observations of Jupiter.

Those results have been discussed at the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting in Orlando this week. It was brought to my attention via Pierre Nel on Twitter and I subsequently visited Emily Lakdawalla's blog for more details. Emily gives an excellent overview of all the results announced so far which include super-fast wave features in Jupiter's atmosphere, lightning stikes near the poles, a lack of small moons and changes on Io since Galileo (and even during the encounter). Interesting stuff and well worth a read. I can hardly wait for the Pluto encounter.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 10th Oct 2007 (22:39 BST) | Permalink
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]