This is what it looks like to fly past the Earth in a spaceship

Nasa's Juno probe flew past us in October, capturing footage of the Earth and Moon moving through space.

There are many images of our home planet taken from space, and they rarely fail to put things in perspective. Yet, have you ever seen our planet, from space, in motion?

The video above was taken by Nasa's Juno probe as it flew past us on 23 October. That grey mass to the left of the screen at the start, drifting right, is the Moon, orbiting the blue Earth. This is what it would look like to approach the Earth in a spaceship. It is incredibly cool. (And that music? That's a composition by Vangelis, the guy who did the soundtracks for Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire - Nasa has good taste.)

Juno, as its name may suggest, is on its way to explore Jupiter. It launched in August 2011, with enough momentum to reach as far as the asteroid belt before gravity pulled it back in towards the Sun - all part of Nasa's plan. As it reached the Earth again and skimmed past it received a gravity boost of a further 7.3km/s relative to the Sun, which should give it the velocity needed to reach Jupiter on the other side of the Solar System by July 2016. Once it's in orbit there, it will study the gas giant's clouds, and what's beneath them.

The video Nasa made of Juno's flypast opens with the probe roughly a million kilometres from Earth. The Moon's orbit is roughly 385,000km, which explains why the Moon shoots off to the right as Juno moves inside its orbit. Juno actually spins as it's flying along, twice per minute, so this video is a sped up one with two frames captured per minute of the same angle by Nasa engineers.

In other "things flying closely past the Earth" news, asteroid 2013 XY flew through our neighbourhood this morning:

It's probably between 30 and 70 metres across, which is considerably larger than the 15-20 metre Chelyabinsk meteor of February this year. And, best of all, we only spotted it five days ago. That's not a lot of warning for something potentially destructive (though, just to emphasise, there's no chance of this thing hitting us). Still, it goes to show just how big space is, and how little of it we know about, even in what we might consider our local community.

Ian Steadman is a staff science and technology writer at the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @iansteadman.

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It’s 2016, so why do printers still suck?

Hewlett Packard recently prevented third-party cartridges from working in their printers, but this is just the latest chapter of home printing's dark and twisted history. 

In order to initiate their children into adulthood, the Sateré-Mawé tribe in the Brazilian Amazon weave stinging ants into gloves and ask teenage boys to wear them for a full ten minutes. The British have a similar rite of passage, though men, women, and children alike partake. At one point in their short, brutal little lives, every citizen must weep at the foot of a printer at 2am, alternatively stroking and swearing at it, before falling into a heap and repeating “But there is no paper jam” 21 times.

There are none alive that have escaped this fate, such is the unending crapness of the modern home printer. And against all odds, today printers have hit the news for becoming even worse, as a Hewlett Packard update means their machines now reject non-branded, third-party ink cartridges. Their printers now only work with the company’s own, more expensive ink.

Although it’s surprising that printers have become worse, we’re already very used to them not getting any better. The first personal printers were unleashed in 1981 and they seemingly received the same treatment as the humble umbrella: people looked at them and said, “What? No, this? No way this can be improved.”

It’s not true, of course, that printing technology has stagnated over the last 35 years. But in a world where we can 3D print clitorises, why can’t we reliably get our tax returns, Year 9 History projects, and insurance contracts from our screens onto an A4 piece of paper in less than two hours?

It’s more to do with business than it is technology. Inkjet printers are often sold at a loss, as many companies decide instead to make their money by selling ink cartridges (hence HP’s latest update). This is known as a “razor and blades” business model, whereby the initial item is sold at a low price in order to increase sales of a complementary good. It explains why your ink is so expensive, why it runs out so quickly, and the most common complaint of all: why your cyan cartridge has to be full in order to print in black and white.

But technology is complicit in the crime. HP’s new update utilises the chips on ink cartridges to tell whether a refill is one of their own, and have also previously been used to region-block cartridges so they can’t be sold on in other countries. Those little chips are also the thing that tells the printer when your ink is empty. Very good. Fine. Except in 2008, PC World found that some printers will claim the cartridges are empty when they are actually nearly half-full.

Back to business. Because this profit models means companies sell printers for so little, quality inevitably suffers. If they’re not selling them for much, companies will naturally try to keep the costs of making their printers down, and this is the reason for your “Load paper in tray two”s, your “Paper jam”s and your “Would you like to cancel this print job? Nope, sorry, too late, here are 100 copies.”

So why are printers bad at networking? This isn’t a set up to a lame joke (unless the joke is, of course, your life as you try to get your wireless printer and your PC to connect). There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to this, other than the fact that Bluetooth is still fairly patchy anyway. Some errors, just as you suspected, happen for no bloody damn good bloody reason at all.

On a bigger scale, the printers in your office are difficult because they work harder than you ever have. It’s a stressful job, for sure, and this naturally comes with errors and jams. The reason they are so hard to fix after the inevitable, however, again comes back to capitalism. Because printers don’t have a universal design, most companies will protect theirs, meaning you can’t know the specifics in order to fix a device yourself. This way, they also make money by sending out their own personal technicians.

Thankfully, although every personal printer you’ve ever bought seems to be on collaborative quest to drive you to madness, there is an easy fix. Buy a laser printer instead. Though the device and the replacement toner cartridges are more expensive, in the long-run you’ll most likely save money. In the meantime, there's only one solution: PC load letter. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.