On February 28th, the day after my birthday, the New Horizons probe will make its closest approach to Jupiter. If you've been reading my blog, you're probably aware that New Horizons is the spacecraft launched almost a year ago, bound for the planet (yes, I say planet) Pluto.
New Horizons started approaching Jupiter for its gravity assist a while back, and what's the point of passing by Jupiter without taking a few pictures? As Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, said, "We're the only train going to Jupiter between '03 and 2016." The Galileo probe finished its mission back in 2003, and the next mission to Jupiter isn't planned to reach the planet until 2016.
Of course, New Horizons will be taking lots of data before my birthday. In fact, NASA is planning its first press conference with new images of Jupiter for January 18th -- the day after Nomi's birthday.
Hmmm. I wonder if this has anything to do with our desire to keep Pluto a planet? Is it possible that Stern and NASA planned this as a secret thank-you? After all, they did first attempt to launch New Horizons on Nomi's birthday last year, and it was only bad weather that delayed the launch to January 19.
Then again, it's probably all just a huge coincidence.
(See the article "Pluto probe begins close-up study of Jupiter" by Kelly Young from the New Scientist Space website for more information.)