NASA spacecraft captures cosmic dance of Earth and moon

Dec. 12, 2013 at 8:16 PM
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SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- A NASA spacecraft has captured the view an alien visitor approaching Earth and moon might see as it flew past our planet, the space agency says.

The Juno spacecraft flew past Earth Oct. 9 to get a speed boost to send it on its way for a July 4, 2016, rendezvous with Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

One of Juno's sensors, a special camera optimized to track faint stars, also had a unique view of the Earth-moon system, providing an intriguing, low-resolution glimpse of what our world would look like to a visitor from afar, NASA scientists said.

"If Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise said, 'Take us home, Scotty,' this is what the crew would see," Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said. "In the movie, you ride aboard Juno as it approaches Earth and then soars off into the blackness of space. No previous view of our world has ever captured the heavenly waltz of Earth and moon."

During the flyby Juno was traveling about twice as fast as a typical satellite, but still managed to capture the unique movie of our Earth and its companion.

"Everything we humans are and everything we do is represented in that view," said the star-tracking camera's designer, John Jorgensen of the Danish Technical University near Copenhagen.

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