Tags: New Horizons | nasa | pluto | Kuiper Belt | photographs | spacecraft

NASA Spacecraft to Start Sending Photos of Icy Pluto

By    |   Monday, 26 January 2015 07:34 AM

After a nine-year journey of three billion miles, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is only months away from the planet Pluto and its five moons, the Daily Mail reported.

"New Horizons is on a journey to a new class of planets we've never seen, in a place we've never been before," according to NASA scientist Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

"For decades, we thought Pluto was this odd little body on the planetary outskirts; now we know it's really a gateway to an entire region of new worlds in the Kuiper Belt, and New Horizons is going to provide the first close-up look at them," Weaver said, CNN reported.

The craft was designed and constructed at APL, the Mail reported.

Beginning this week, it is expected to provide the best pictures yet of the icy planet, which is approximately two-thirds the diameter of Earth's moon, the paper said.

The Hubble Space Telescope snapped blurry photos of Pluto that, after years of computer-enhancements, showed the planet to be an "icy and dark molasses-colored, mottled world that is undergoing seasonal changes in its surface color and brightness," according to NASA.

The seven-foot-long spacecraft contains cameras, instruments, and the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager, which is expected to soon start sending hundreds of improved images of Pluto and its moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx, according to CNN.

Mega-moon Charon is nearly under half the size of Pluto, the Mail reported.

The spacecraft was launched on Jan. 19, 2006, and is due to arrive at Pluto on July 14, when it should be just 7,700 miles away from the "dwarf planet" and traveling at 31,000 mph, according to the Mail.

From Pluto, the craft will head deeper into the Kuiper Belt, according to NASA.

It takes Pluto 248 years to orbit around the sun. The planet was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1930. It was named by Venetia Burney, age 11, of Oxford, England. Burney died at age 90 in 2009.

NASA's mission has cost about $700 million, the Mail reported.

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After a nine-year journey of three billion miles, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is only months away from the planet Pluto and its five moons, and should start sending close-up photos of the icy planet this week, the Daily Mail reported.
New Horizons, nasa, pluto, Kuiper Belt, photographs, spacecraft
Monday, 26 January 2015 07:34 AM
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