Views from the Solar System (177)

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Forty Years Ago, Pioneer 10‘s Closest Approach to Jupiter

nasa – On Dec. 4, 1973, NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft sent back images of Jupiter of ever-increasing size. The most dramatic moment was after closest approach and after the spacecraft was hidden behind Jupiter. Here, images gradually build up into a very distorted crescent-shaped Jupiter. “Sunrise on Jupiter,” a team member said. The giant planet crescent gradually decreased in size as the spacecraft sped away out of the Jovian system.

Launched on Mar. 2, 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Pioneer 10 passed within 81,000 miles of the cloudtops during its closest encounter with Jupiter. This historic event marked humans’ first approach to Jupiter and opened the way for exploration of the outer solar system – for

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