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A Big Week for Big Planets

170592main_pia08362_full.jpgOn Feb. 28, NASA's New Horizons probe pulled off a planetary slingshot maneuver, using Jupiter's gravitational field to trim several years off the probe's journey to Pluto. That rendezvous won't occur until 2015, but in the meantime, New Horizons' close approach to the largest planet in the solar system is expected to yield some exciting imagery in the near future. Visit NASA's New Horizons page for past photos and new updates as the mission progresses.

If you absolutely have to have a fix of gas giant photos this week, you're in luck! NASA just released a slew of gorgeous photos from the Cassini spacecraft, offering never-before-seen views of the ringed planet (like the one at right).

And just for good measure, here's the full listing of The World Almanac's editors' picks for top celestial and space exploration events of 2007--including the New Horizons flyby at #2:

World Almanac Editors’ Picks
Top 10 Celestial and Space Exploration Events of 2007

  1. Perseid Meteor Shower: Aug. 13 peak coincides with the new Moon; excellent viewing throughout the night.
  2. New Horizons (NASA): probe slingshots past Jupiter, en route to Pluto in 2015; closest Jupiter approach on Feb. 28.
  3. Phoenix Mars Lander (NASA): scheduled to launch Aug 3, arriving on Mars in May 2008.
  4. Planck/Herschel (ESA): two new orbiting observatories, scheduled to launch July 2007.
  5. Chang’e-1 (China): first Chinese lunar orbiter, scheduled to launch in 2007.
  6. Waxing Crescent Moon paired with Jupiter, Nov. 12: One of the best dates to view this pretty pairing, due to close proximity of the two bodies and visibility soon after sunset.
  7. GLAST (NASA): Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope, launch set for Aug. 7; will study extremely energetic objects and phenomena.
  8. Waxing Crescent Moon between Venus and Saturn, June 18: One of the best dates to view this celestial grouping.
  9. NOAA-N Prime (NASA): new weather and climate satellite, scheduled to launch Dec. 6.
  10. Saturn at Opposition, Feb. 10: Saturn’s closest approach to Earth, and the best time to view and photograph the planet and its moons throughout the night.


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