Today in 2015: New Horizons at Pluto | 7/14/2019 | Deborah Byrd
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A natural color view of Pluto, as seen by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. The heart-shaped feature measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) across. Pluto is known to be made mostly of ices. New research – published in 2019 – adds to the evidence for a subsurface ocean beneath the dwarf planet’s icy outer crust. Image via NASA/ Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/ Southwest Research Institute/ Alex Parker.

July 14, 2015. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to distant Pluto on this date, sweeping only about 7,750 miles (12,500 km) above its surface (roughly the same distance as from New York to Mumbai, India). The fast-moving spacecraft had traveled almost 10 years and 3 billion miles (5 billion km) to that closest point at Pluto, on our solar system’s outskirts. The entire long journey took only about one minute less than predicted when the craft was launched in January 2006. At Pluto, New Horizons “threaded a needle” through a 36-by-57 mile (60 by 90 kilometers) window in space; it was the equivalent of a commercial airliner arriving no more off target than the width of a tennis ball. New Horizons became the first-ever space mission to view Pluto and its moons (Charon, Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos) up close. It’ll likely be the only space mission to Pluto in the lifetimes of many of us.

Pluto - Story - Century - Clyde - Tombaugh

The Pluto story began early in the 20th century when young Clyde Tombaugh was given the task of looking for Planet X, theorized to exist beyond the orbit of Neptune. On February 18, 1930, he discovered a faint point of light that we now know as Pluto. Among New Horizons’ most immediate, stunning and visible findings was a bright heart-shaped feature on Pluto, which you can see at the photo at the top...
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