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New Horizons Completes First Stage Of Long Journey To Pluto And Beyond

Hubble Monitors Jupiter in Support of the New Horizons Flyby
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has recently taken images of Jupiter in support of the New Horizons Mission. The images were taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys. Hubble will continue to photograph Jupiter, as well as its volcanically active moon, Io, over the next month as the New Horizons spacecraft flies past Jupiter. New Horizons is en route to Pluto, and made its closest approach to Jupiter on February 28, 2007. Through combined remote imaging by Hubble and in situ measurements by New Horizons, the two missions will enhance each other scientifically, allowing scientists to learn more about the Jovian atmosphere, the aurorae, and the charged-particle environment of Jupiter and its interaction with the solar wind. For this photo, the combined ultraviolet- and visible-light images of Jupiter were taken with Hubble from February 17-21. The image segments in the boxes, obtained using the Advanced Camera for Surveys's ultraviolet camera, show auroral emissions that are always present in Jupiter's polar regions. The equatorial regions of Jupiter were imaged in blue light by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Cloud features in Jupiter's main atmosphere are revealed. In the ultraviolet views, the atmosphere looks more hazy because sunlight is reflected from higher in the atmosphere.
by Alan Stern
Laurel MD (SPX) Mar 02, 2007
The eighth mission to the fifth planet has reached its crescendo - Jupiter, my friends, is in the rear view mirror! Just yesterday we passed closest approach, sealing the deal on our gravity assist and setting us up for our mid-July 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.

When New Horizons passed closest to giant Jupiter, and through the riskiest region for radiation from the giant planet's magnetosphere, it was out of contact with controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Maryland.

So the tension in the control center was high as we awaited first contact after closest approach, which occurred just minutes before noon Eastern time yesterday - and just over 11 hours past the flyby point.

But when contact was established, our baby was just fine, quietly executing its timeline and apparently no worse the wear for its radiation bath.

With that news came an impromptu press conference, a series of television and radio interviews, an evening lecture by mission scientist John Spencer to a crowd of hundreds, and then more interviews.

It reminded me of the attention we got during the launch campaign - which is fitting in a way, since in a real sense, yesterday's flyby was the completion our January 2006 launch, with Jupiter serving as the fourth stage that "fired" 13 months after the three stages of our Atlas V.

Now we're truly on the Pluto leg of our journey, having gained the speed boost and turn required for our date with scientific destiny, eight summers hence.

Onward now to the Kuiper Belt, the Third Zone of our planetary system, that ancient relic of planetary formation, and scientific wonderland at the very frontier of humankind's home solar system!

The graphics above illustrate the boost in speed, over time, that New Horizons gets from flying past Jupiter. (Click on the images to view larger versions.)

I'll be back in a few days with more news about the scientific observations New Horizons is making - and there are still four more jam-packed days of Jupiter system observations before we settle down for the long Jovian exploration traverse.

But that's it for now. I'll be back with more news and view soon. Keep exploring, as we do!

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Pluto-Bound New Horizons Spacecraft Gets A Boost From Jupiter
Laurel MD (SPX) Mar 01, 2007
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed a flyby of Jupiter early this morning, using the massive planet's gravity to pick up speed on its 3-billion mile voyage to Pluto and the unexplored Kuiper Belt region beyond. "We're on our way to Pluto," says New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. "The swingby was a success; the spacecraft is on course and performed just as we expected."

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