Watch The Historic New Horizons Pluto Fly-By Tomorrow July 14
Tomorrow, July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will get the best view yet of Pluto, passing at 12,500 kilometers from the dwarf planet at the fringes of the Solar System, Nature News reports. Everyone is invited to join Nature reporter Alexandra Witze and a team of Pluto experts for live reporting and commentary on July 14, beginning at 7 am Eastern daylight time.
New Horizons Will Head Farther Into the Kuiper Belt After Exploring Pluto
Now that all major planets in the solar system, as well as the major moons, comets and asteroids, have been visited by at least one space probe, we must colonize the solar system with manned planetary bases, and after that the stars.
Writing on IEEE Spectrum, James Oberg notes that the Pluto “grand finale” completes the first robotic reconnaissance of the Solar System.
“The Pluto triumph, even as it marks a bookend to a glorious succession of space missions across my entire lifetime, is an unalloyed wellspring of joy because it marks an opening of new avenues of exploration,” says Oberg.
Those missions barely unlocked the doors to greater destinations.
On July 11, 2015, New Horizons captured a world that is growing more fascinating by the day. For the first time on Pluto, this view reveals linear features that may be cliffs, as well as a circular feature that could be an impact crater. Rotating into view is the bright heart-shaped feature that will be seen in more detail during New Horizons’ closest approach on July 14. The annotated version includes a diagram indicating Pluto’s north pole, equator, and central meridian.
Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was originally considered the ninth planet from the Sun. After 1992, its status as a planet fell into question following the discovery of the Kuiper belt, a ring of objects beyond Neptune that includes Pluto among other large bodies. Pluto, which has about one-sixth the mass and one-third the volume of the Moon, and is primarily made of rock and ice, is now considered as a dwarf planet.
New Horizons, launched in January 2006, swung past Jupiter for a gravity boost and scientific studies in February 2007, and is now conducting a five-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015. Then, the spacecraft is expected to head farther into the Kuiper Belt to examine one or two of the ancient, icy mini-worlds in that vast region, at least a billion miles beyond Neptune’s orbit.
Images from NASA.