New Horizons Reaches Pluto
After nine long years and flying nearly 3-billion miles (4.8 billion km), NASA’s probe, New Horizons has awoken from its hibernation as it prepares for the first of it’s kind flyby of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
Saturday at 3:00 PM ET, a pre-set alarm clock woke the New Horizons from its hibernation mode. Because to the extreme distance, it 6.5 hours for NASA received confirmation.
Starting January 15, 2015, the spacecraft will start its scientific observations of the dwarf planet Pluto and one or two of its Kuiper belt objects depending on there positions.
Onboard the probe are seven instruments including infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers – which will measure UV and infra-red waves, a high-resolution telescopic camera, a multicolor camera and a space dust detector.
All of the instruments aboard New Horizons are powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator – a type of nuclear motor – which provides less power than a two 100-watt light bulbs.
New Horizons will be closest to Pluto on July 14, 2015, 7,767miles of the planet’s surface,
and the probe will not go into an orbit around the dwarf planet, for two reasons:
On it’s journey, New Horizons passed three to four times closer to Jupiter than other probes, using the planet’s gravity to increase its speed and reduce journey times to Pluto by almost three years.
The first is; To get to Pluto (which is 5 billion kilometers or 3 billion miles from Earth) in just 9.5 years, the spacecraft must travel very, very quickly. As a result, New Horizons will speed by Pluto at a velocity of about 43,000 kilometers per hour (27,000 miles per hour). To get into orbit, operators would have to reduce that speed by over 90%, which would require more than 1,000 times the fuel that New Horizons can carry.
The second is; If we did stop to go into orbit, we wouldn’t be able to go on to explore the Kuiper Belt!
Costing $700 million USD the mission has the following objectives:
·Map the surface composition of Pluto and Charon
·Characterize geology and morphology (“the look”) of Pluto and Charon
·Characterize the neutral atmosphere of Pluto and its escape rate
·Search for an atmosphere around Charon
·Map surface temperatures on Pluto and Charon
·Search for rings and additional satellites around Pluto
·Conduct similar investigations of one or more Kuiper Belt Objects
The New Horizons spacecraft is roughly 8 feet (2.5 meters) across and weighs about 1,050 pounds (480 kilograms) — about half a ton. It’s about the size and shape of a baby grand piano. It carries seven scientific instruments:
·Alice: An ultraviolet spectrometer used for measuring gas composition
·Ralph: An infrared spectrometer (LEISA) for mapping surface composition and a color optical imager (MVIC) for mapping surface structure and composition
·REX: A radio experiment for measuring atmospheric composition and temperature
·LORRI: An optical telescope that provides the highest resolution imaging of the surface
·PEPSSI: A plasma-sensing instrument for measuring particles escaping from Pluto’s atmosphere
·SWAP A plasma-sensing instrument for measuring the properties of the solar wind at Pluto, Pluto’s atmospheric escape rate, and for searching for a magnetosphere around Pluto. The “solar wind” is a stream of charged particles streaming away from the Sun at high speed.
·SDC: An instrument used to measure dust impacts at the New Horizons spacecraft during its entire trajectory
7 Dec, 2014
New Horizons Reaches Pluto
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