NASA's Juno probe left Earth behind for good a couple of weeks ago, heading onward to Jupiter after a nail-biting flyby, but the mission team is still putting together the image data from the close encounter. And so are the amateur image-processing gurus.
Scientist-journalist Ken Kremer and his Italian colleague, Marco Di Lorenzo, assembled the latest raw imagery from the Junocam database to produce a false-color portrait showing half of Earth's disk, including the coast of South America and swirls of clouds over the South Atlantic. The blue tints reflect the contribution of a near-infrared filter that Juno will use to look for methane in Jupiter's atmosphere when it goes into Jovian orbit in 2016.
For more views of Earth as seen by Juno, check out Gerald's view from UnmannedSpaceflight.com, or NASA's view from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's website.
Juno experienced two snags associated with the Oct. 9 flyby, which brought the car-sized spacecraft within 347 miles (560 kilometers) of Earth's surface and gave it an essential gravitational boost toward Jupiter.
One snag occurred just after the closest approach, probably due to an incorrect setting for the fault protection trigger on Juno's battery. The mission team suspects that when Earth blocked the solar-powered probe from the sun's rays, the voltage level dropped to the point that the onboard computer put itself into protective "safe mode." Juno was brought out of safe mode and restored to normal operations on Oct. 11.
Another safe-mode situation arose on Oct. 13, when the computer made the transition from its Earth flyby sequence to the command sequence for the cruise to Jupiter. One of Juno's components didn't make the switch, and that apparently triggered the second safe-mode event.
The $1.1 billion Juno mission's project manager, Rick Nybakken of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told NBC News that the probe was brought back out of safe mode on Friday afternoon.
"The spacecraft is very healthy, and it continues on its trajectory to Jupiter," Nybakken said Tuesday.
He said Juno's mission team was still analyzing readings from the flyby — including data from the Waves instrument, which will study Jupiter's auroral displays and radio emissions. NASA asked amateur radio operators to say "Hi" to Juno in Morse Code during the flyby, and Nybakken said it's looking as if the messages were received.
While Nybakken and his colleagues keep working, the spacecraft is slipping farther and farther away from the home planet every day. As of Monday, Juno was 6.7 million miles (10.8 million kilometers) from Earth and 739 million miles (7.95 astronomical units) from Jupiter. Nybakken says Juno is closing in on its target at a sun-relative speed of more than 84,000 mph (135,000 kilometers per hour). Less than 1,000 days to go!
More about Juno and Jupiter:
- How did Jupiter form? Juno hopes to find out
- NASA goes green with solar-powered Juno
- Slideshow: Jewels from Jupiter
Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding +Alan Boyle to your Google+ circles. To keep up with NBCNews.com's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.