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Posts Tagged ‘new horizons’

NASA Pluto-Bound Spacecraft Crosses Neptune’s Orbit

August 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL

Image credit: NASA/JPL

NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14, 2015.

The sophisticated piano-sized spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, reached Neptune’s orbit — nearly 2.75 billion miles (4.4. billion kilometers) from Earth — in a record eight years and eight months. New Horizons’ milestone matches precisely the 25th anniversary of the historic encounter of NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft with Neptune on Aug. 25, 1989.

“It’s a cosmic coincidence that connects one of NASA’s iconic past outer solar system explorers, with our next outer solar system explorer,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Exactly 25 years ago at Neptune, Voyager 2 delivered our ‘first’ look at an unexplored planet. Now it will be New Horizons’ turn to reveal the unexplored Pluto and its moons in stunning detail next summer on its way into the vast outer reaches of the solar system.

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Hubble To Proceed With Full Search For New Horizons Targets


NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been given the go-ahead to conduct an intensive search for a suitable outer solar system object that the New Horizons (NH) spacecraft could visit after the probe streaks though the Pluto system in July 2015.

Hubble observations will begin in July and are expected to conclude in August.

Assuming a suitable target is found at the completion of the survey and some follow-up observations are made later in the year, if NASA approves, the New Horizons’ trajectory can be modified in the fall of 2015 to rendezvous with the target Kuiper Belt object (KBO) three to four years later.

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New Horizons Camera Spots Pluto’s Largest Moon


NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft, using its highest-resolution telescopic camera, has spotted Pluto’s Texas-sized, ice-covered moon Charon for the first time. This represents a major milestone on the spacecraft’s 9½-year journey to conduct the initial reconnaissance of the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt and, in a sense, begins the mission’s long-range study of the Pluto system.

The largest of Pluto’s five known moons, Charon orbits about 12,000 miles (more than 19,000 kilometers) away from Pluto itself. As seen from New Horizons, that’s only about 0.01 degrees away.

“The image itself might not look very impressive to the untrained eye, but compared to the discovery images of Charon from Earth, these ‘discovery’ images from New Horizons look great!” says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. “We’re very excited to see Pluto and Charon as separate objects for the first time from New Horizons.”

Full Story: http://www.pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20130710.php

Pluto’s Moons And Possible Rings May Be Hazards: New Horizons And The Gauntlet It May Encounter In 2015

October 17, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is now almost seven years into its 9.5-year journey across the solar system to explore Pluto and its system of moons. Just over two years from now, in January 2015, New Horizons will begin encounter operations, which will culminate in a close approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, and the first-ever exploration of a planet in the Kuiper Belt.

As New Horizons has traveled through the solar system, its science team has become increasingly aware of the possibility that dangerous debris may be orbiting in the Pluto system, putting NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft and its exploration objectives into harm’s way.

“We’ve found more and more moons orbiting near Pluto — the count is now up to five,” says Dr. Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission and an associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute. “And we’ve come to appreciate that those moons, as well as others not yet discovered, act as debris generators populating the Pluto system with shards from collisions between those moons and small Kuiper Belt objects.”

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2012/newhorizons-pluto.htm

Io’s Volcanism Influences Jupiter’s Magnetosphere

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Volcanic emissions from Jupiter’s moon Io supply plasma to the planet’s magnetosphere and lead to its main auroral emissions. New observations show that the main auroral oval expanded and outer emissions brightened in spring 2007. Some studies have suggested that magnetospheric changes such as this could be caused by changes in the incoming solar wind. Bonfond et al. present several lines of evidence—including images from the Hubble Space Telescope and observations of a volcanic plume on Io from the New Horizons probe, along with measurements of increased emissions from Jupiter’s sodium cloud—that indicate that Io’s volcanism controls changes in Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

Full Story: http://www.agu.org/news/press/jhighlight_archives/2012/2012-01-31.shtml#six