Tags: new horizon | downlink | phase | starts

New Horizon Downlink Phase Starts on Solar System's Edge

Image: New Horizon Downlink Phase Starts on Solar System's Edge
This photo of Pluto was made from four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Handout/Reuters)

By    |   Tuesday, 08 Sep 2015 09:52 AM

NASA's spacecraft New Horizon began the downlink phase of its Pluto data on Saturday, promising more stunning images and information on the dwarf planet at the outskirts of the solar system.

New Horizon has only been serving up lower data-rate information gathered by energetic particle, solar wind and space dust instruments, so far, according a NASA release. What it has sent so far has already been impressive, with close-up images of the planet's icy mountain ranges.

The images were taken in July when New Horizon made its closest approach to the Pluto at 47,800 miles.

"As a flyby mission, New Horizons was designed to gather as much information as it could, as quickly as it could, as it sped past Pluto and its family of moons – then store its wealth of data to its digital recorders for later transmission to Earth," said NASA.

"During the data downlink phase, the spacecraft transmits science and operations data to NASA's Deep Space Network of antenna stations, which also provide services to other missions, like Voyager. … With New Horizons past Pluto, the typical downlink rate is approximately 1-4 kilobits per second, depending on how the data is sent and which DSN antenna is receiving it." the space agency said.

Greg Rienzi, of the HUB news center at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in July that it would take about 16 months for scientists to gather the bulk of the information sent back from New Horizons.

"For one, consider that the information has to travel more than three billion miles," said Rienzi, explaining why it will take so long to receive the information. "Even moving at the speed of light, that's a 4.5-hour trip for a single image."

"… As an instrument makes an observation, data is transferred to a solid-state recorder — similar to a flash memory card for a digital camera — where it's compressed, reformatted, and transmitted to Earth through the spacecraft's radio telecommunications system, a 2.1-meter high-gain antenna."

While scientists wait for the new Pluto information, New Horizons is zipping to its next target, a body called 2014 MU69, noted the blog Planetary.org. The body, which New Horizons is scheduled to reach in 2019, will be the first object targeted by the spacecraft that was found after it was launched from Earth, noted the blog.

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NASA's spacecraft New Horizon began the downlink phase of its Pluto data on Saturday, promising more stunning images and information on the dwarf planet at the outskirts of the solar system.
new horizon, downlink, phase, starts
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2015-52-08
Tuesday, 08 Sep 2015 09:52 AM
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