Juno Earth flyby
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill) Image of Earth taken by the JunoCam on the Juno spacecraft during an Earth gravity assist flyby on October 9, 2013.

You may have forgotten about that moment in 2013 when the Juno spacecraft sailed past Earth because it has been in orbit around Jupiter for over five years - since July 4, 2016. The spaceship needed a little help getting to Jupiter, so it turned to Earth for help. With these spectacular newly processed photographs of Earth acquired by the JunoCam, the "citizen science" camera on board, image editor Kevin Gill reminded us of that visit. Definitely a pale blue dot!

Juno passed by Earth on October 9, 2013. The Independent said the spacecraft received a speed boost of more than 3.9 kilometers per second (about 8,800 mph). Scientists also utilized the flyby to put the camera to the test, giving it its first warmup in space by photographing a vibrant planet.

Juno Earth flyby
(Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)
Image of Earth taken by the JunoCam on the Juno spacecraft during an Earth gravity assist flyby on October 9, 2013.

Juno Captures Stunning Photos Of Earth

TweakTown said Juno's JunoCam captured some stunning photographs of our blue planet, which were then made available to the public on the Mission Juno website.

The flyby served as a practice run for amateur picture editors utilizing Junocam photographs. JunoCam's imagery is transmitted back to Earth and posted to the Mission Juno website, where anybody can download it for further processing. The photographs that citizen scientists have processed are subsequently placed on the Juno website. They range from meticulous scientific imagery and analyses to stunning works of art inspired by space.

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"The idea that you can couple our scientific imaging and understanding of the planet, with artistic representations of not only what the planet means but what exploration means, has been very valuable to the mission- and to the public," Paul Steffes from Georgie Tech, one of the Juno science investigators said per ScienceAlert.

On August 5, 2011, Juno was launched from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Juno's launch vehicle could only provide the spacecraft with enough energy to get it to the asteroid belt, where gravity from the Sun drew it back to the inner solar system. The swing past Earth was meant as a gravity assist in boosting the spacecraft's speed relative to the sun, allowing it to approach Jupiter.

What Is A Flyby?

Why doesn't Juno fly straight to Jupiter? NASA said a rocket is used to launch a spacecraft to another planet to get rid of Earth's gravity. Even after a spacecraft has left our planet, it remains in orbit around the Sun (just like Earth). The distance an object can travel with regard to the Sun is determined by the velocity or speed of its orbit around the Sun. To deliver a spacecraft as huge and capable as Juno directly to Jupiter, a more powerful rocket would be required. As a result, the Juno crew employs a technology known as gravity assist to boost Juno's speed and enable it to approach Jupiter.

The spacecraft orbits around the inner solar system before returning to its original launch distance from the Sun (Earth's orbit). The difficulty is to time the flyby so that our planet is visible when Juno returns to Earth's orbital distance. Juno can then use Earth's orbital momentum to boost its own momentum, thus stealing some of Earth's orbital energy. Juno's launch vehicle supplied chemical propulsion, which delivered a little more than half of the boost it needed to travel to Jupiter; the Earth flyby provided the rest. As a result, the Earth flyby is nearly like getting a second rocket for free! The Juno spacecraft will take around two years to orbit the sun once and return to Earth for the flyby, followed by three years to drift out to Jupiter.

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