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Two intriguing investigations -- One flight-proven spacecraft


EPOXI Mission Trajectory

Caption: The top panel shows the Earth and EPOXI's spacecraft in heliocentric orbit about the Sun. The spacecraft is soon revealed as a red dot, following a path (trajectory) close to the Earth. The bottom panel shows the spacecraft distance above or below the ecliptic plane (the plane of the Earth's orbit), measured in units of the Earth's average distance from the Sun (an Astronomical Unit = AU). At various times through the period of the animation, EPOXI turns to look back at the Earth for a full day. Right now, we expect those days to be around March 19 (the day before the northern spring equinox), April 8, April 30, May 29, and maybe a final look on June 13 (Friday the thirteenth!). Most of the spacecraft's time will be spent in staring at various stars that are known to be orbited by planets of their own. By staring at these stars, we will measure the tiny change in the total intensity of the star's light each time that a planet's orbit takes it between us and the star. The panel at the bottom shows the orientation of the spacecraft while observing each of these stars. The cryptic label gives the name of the target star being observed at the time; you can look up more about it by searching the web. One of these stars has been recently replaced on our target list (HAT-P-4 will replace HAT-P-2) since this animation was made. Keep an eye out for new versions!

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD/GSFC


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