After 9 years and 4.8 billion kilometers NASA’s spacecraft New Horizon is finally reaching Pluto.
With the just 4 weeks to go, on July 14th, New Horizon will make its closest contact with Pluto. The spacecraft will fly within 12,472 kilometers, inside the orbits of Pluto’s five known moons.
New Horizon will be the first spacecraft to explore the tiny, icy world of Pluto.
Flight controllers fired a thruster on the spacecraft to control and fine tune its path during its journey towards Pluto.
In the next month a turning point is going to take a place when Pluto and its moons are explored.
The spacecraft is being operated by The Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The lab also designed and built the relatively lightweight craft, about the size of a baby grand piano. It carries seven science instruments; the cameras have been photographing the planet since January.
Large dark areas were seen at the bottom of Pluto in the latest pictures taken by the spacecraft. Scientists are eager to learn the size and shape of these dark spots, as well as their exact location. Images will keep improving with every step closer to Pluto.
“It’s very fascinating to see this level of detail,” deputy project scientist Cathy Olkin said during an update broadcast Tuesday.
On February 18, 1930, Tombaugh discovered the tiny, distant planet by use of a new astronomic technique of photographic plates combined with a blink microscope. His finding was confirmed by several other astronomers, and on March 13, 1930– so far it has been discovered Pluto has 5 moons.
More moons could be out there.
The $700 million mission began with a 2006 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Scientists are learning more about the universe and Earth’s place in it. What they learn may cause them to think about how objects like planets are grouped. Scientist’s group objects that are like each other to better understand them. Learning more about faraway objects in the solar system is helping astronomers learn more about what it means to be a planet.