NASA New Horizons spacecraft travels 3 billion miles to visit dwarf planet
New Horizons, an interplanetary space probe launched by NASA, left Earth Jan. 19, 2006, and arrived at its destination, a flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto, July 14, 2015. The journey lasted nearly 9.5 years and covered 3 billion miles. New Horizons is heading deeper into the Kuiper belt, a region in our solar system beyond Neptune that extends 4.65 billion miles from the Sun. The Kuiper belt is 20 times wider and 20 to 200 times more massive than the asteroid belt.
Discovered in 1930 and named for the Greek god of the underworld, Pluto was once considered the ninth planet. After comparable objects were found in the Kuiper belt, including Eris, which is 27 percent more massive, Pluto was demoted to dwarf-planet status. New Horizons scientists have determined that Pluto is 1,473 miles in diameter, making the dwarf larger by volume than all other known solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune. Pluto has five known moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra.
In keeping with the infernal theme, Charon is the ferryman of the dead; Styx is the river of the dead; Nix is the Greek goddess of darkness; Kerberos is the Greek name for the guardian dog of Hades; Hydra is the extra-headed water monster that lurks near the entrance to the underlife. Considering Pluto’s hellish connections, the gigantic heart is something of a surprise.
To learn more about Pluto, NASA and New Horizons, visit:read more…)
Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago—mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system (read more…)
Image Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI
A newly discovered mountain range lies near the southwestern margin of Pluto’s Tombaugh Regio (Tombaugh Region), situated between bright, icy plains and dark, heavily-cratered terrain. This image was acquired by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, 2015 from a distance of 48,000 miles (read more…)
Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
Pluto and Charon are shown in a composite of natural-color images from New Horizons. Images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to produce these views, which portray Pluto and Charon as an observer riding on the spacecraft would see them. (read more…)
Image Credit: NASA/JUAPL/SwRI
To learn more about the Physics, Engineering and Mathematics programs at Inver Hills, contact: