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Life, Unbounded

Life, Unbounded


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Extraordinary Footage From Starship Juno

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A starship comes tearing through the solar system, its sensors capturing a brief glimpse of the inner planets. A small blue-green world spins while its tiny dark moon gyrates around it. And then all is gone. Left behind for eternity as this interstellar voyager speeds on to the gaping void that is the rest of our Galaxy…

It’s hard not to think of a fantasy like this when watching the footage below. On October 9th 2013 NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter performed an Earth-flyby, grabbing a little bit of momentum from our planet’s orbit and speeding onwards to its 2016 rendezvous with the gas-giant king. During the Earth encounter Juno’s star tracker – a camera designed to help with spacecraft orientation and navigation – caught these noisy and slightly obscure frames. The result? A time-lapse montage of the Earth and Moon in their ancient waltz, and a hint of a world that a real starship might want to visit one day (watch with the sound up).

Caleb A. Scharf About the Author: Caleb Scharf is the director of Columbia University's multidisciplinary Astrobiology Center. He has worked in the fields of observational cosmology, X-ray astronomy, and more recently exoplanetary science. His latest book is 'Gravity's Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos', and he is working on 'The Copernicus Complex' (both from Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux.) Follow on Twitter @caleb_scharf.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. string_beery 2:09 pm 12/11/2013

    very cool…thanks for posting!

    any idea of the true elapsed time to take this video?

    Link to this
  2. 2. Caleb A. Scharf in reply to Caleb A. Scharf 8:13 am 12/13/2013

    The true elapsed time is about 4 days. Part of the reason the Earth looks kind of blanked out/messy as Juno approaches is that the star tracker cameras were saturating because the Earth is so bright!

    Link to this

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