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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Does A Super-Close Flyby on Wednesday

NASA’s Juno spacecraft will slingshot past Earth on October 9th for a velocity boost en route to Jupiter. At closest approach the spacecraft will be only 347 miles above Earth’s surface.

Why will Juno be be paying a return visit to Earth? It is gathering speed by suing a sling-shot maneuver that will boost its speed to around 16,000 mph. During the flyby, Juno’s science instruments will be activated to sample the Earth environment–a practice run for data-taking when the spacecraft reaches Jupiter in 2016. Despite the shutdown of the US government, will continue as planned, happening around 2:15PM our time.

Amateur radio operators around the world are invited to say “HI” to Juno in a coordinated Morse Code message. Juno’s radio and plasma wave experiment, called Waves, should be able to detect the message if enough people participate.

The spacecraft will not be visible to the unaided eye. There is a slim chance, however, that sky watchers could see a “Juno flare” if sunlight glints off the spacecraft’s large solar arrays. Anyone who successfully photographs the spacecraft is encouraged to submit their images.

Watch a video simulation of the flyby.

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