New Horizons Team Celebrates Four Decades of Discovery on Pluto’s Large, Amazing Moon
Laurel, Md. (JHUAPL PR) — The largest of Pluto’s five moons, Charon, was discovered 40 years ago today by James Christy and Robert Harrington at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona – only about six miles from where Pluto itself was discovered at Lowell Observatory. They weren’t even looking for satellites of Pluto – Christy was trying to refine Pluto’s orbit around the Sun.
WASHINGTON (USPS PR) — A 1991 Pluto: Not Yet Explored stamp traveled more than 3 billion miles on a spacecraft to the dwarf planet has earned the Guiness World Records achievement for the farthest distance traveled by a postage stamp. The stamp also served as NASA’s rallying cry to set the record straight for exploring Pluto.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (NASA PR) — From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in National Harbor, Maryland.
From Pluto’s unusual heart-shaped region to its extended atmosphere and intriguing moons, New Horizons has revealed a degree of diversity and complexity in the Pluto system that few expected in the frigid outer reaches of the solar system.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (NASA PR) — The New Horizons team describes a wide range of findings about the Pluto system in its first science paper, released today. “The Pluto System: Initial Results from its Exploration by New Horizons,” led by mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, appears as the cover story in the Oct. 16 issue of Science, just three months after NASA’s historic first exploration of the Pluto system in July.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — If you liked the first historic images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, you’ll love what’s to come.
Seven weeks after New Horizons sped past the Pluto system to study Pluto and its moons – previously unexplored worlds – the mission team will begin intensive downlinking of the tens of gigabits of data the spacecraft collected and stored on its digital recorders. The process moves into high gear on Saturday, Sept. 5, with the entire downlink taking about one year to complete.
LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — Pluto has five known moons. In order of distance from Pluto they are: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra.
While Pluto’s largest moon Charon has grabbed most of the lunar spotlight, two of Pluto’s smaller and lesser-known satellites are starting to come into focus via new images from the New Horizons spacecraft. Nix and Hydra – the second and third moons to be discovered – are approximately the same size, but their similarity ends there.
LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — Icy mountains on Pluto and a new, crisp view of its largest moon, Charon, are among the several discoveries announced Wednesday by the NASA’s New Horizons team, just one day after the spacecraft’s first ever Pluto flyby.
“Pluto New Horizons is a true mission of exploration showing us why basic scientific research is so important,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The mission has had nine years to build expectations about what we would see during closest approach to Pluto and Charon. Today, we get the first sampling of the scientific treasure collected during those critical moments, and I can tell you it dramatically surpasses those high expectations.”
New Horizons scientists are spending this morning downloading data off the spacecraft after its close flyby of Pluto. They plan to unveil new images of the dwarf planet at a press conference scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT (12:00 p.m. PDT). These images will be many times better than what were published prior to the flyby. The press conference will air live on NASA TV.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has survived its flyby of Pluto. All systems were reported as nominal and controllers have confirmed the spacecraft recorded data today during its close encounter with Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.
New Horizons sent signals back to controllers in Maryland some 13 hours after its closest approach to Pluto. The spacecraft was out of touch as it performed a sophisticated set of measurements and observations with its seven scientific instruments.
It will take controllers 16 months to download all the data recording during the flyby. New Horizons is headed for the Kuiper belt, where it will conduct a flyby of an object there.
Officials say the spacecraft has enough fuel on board to last another 20 years should New Horizons remain healthy.
Video Caption: NASA officials and team members of the New Horizons mission to Pluto participate in a status update of the spacecraft and its suite of instruments prior to New Horizon’s historic flyby of Pluto on July 14. The news briefing was broadcast from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, site of the mission operations center.
LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — New Horizons has obtained impressive new images of Pluto and its large moon Charon that highlight their compositional diversity. These are not actual color images of Pluto and Charon—they are shown here in exaggerated colors that make it easy to note the differences in surface material and features on each planetary body.
Video Caption: The New Horizons’ team and a room full to capacity at the mission’s control center outside of Baltimore, Maryland celebrated with the rest of the world at the exact time of the Pluto (7:49 EDT, July 14th, 2015).
LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide flyby coverage on NASA Television, the agency’s website and its social media accounts as the spacecraft closes in on Pluto in the coming days. The schedule for event coverage is subject to change, with daily updates posted online and in the New Horizons Media Center at APL.
Highlights of the current coverage schedule, all in Eastern time, include:
Tuesday, July 14 7:30 to 8 a.m. – Arrival at Pluto Countdown Program; live on NASA TV
At approximately 7:49 a.m., New Horizons is scheduled to be as close as the spacecraft will get to Pluto, approximately 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) above the surface, after a journey of more than nine years and three billion miles. For much of the day, New Horizons will be out of communication with mission control as it gathers data about Pluto and its moons.
LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s New Horizons mission has answered one of the most basic questions about Pluto—its size.
Mission scientists have found Pluto to be 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter, somewhat larger than many prior estimates. Images acquired with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were used to make this determination. This result confirms what was already suspected: Pluto is larger than all other known solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune.
BOULDER, Colo. (CU-Boulder PR) — After a nine-year journey of 3 billion miles, a piano-sized, power-packed NASA spacecraft has an upcoming date with history that some University of Colorado Boulder students, faculty and alumni wouldn’t miss for the world.
Tuesday, July 14, is the day the New Horizons spacecraft will whip by Pluto and become the first ever spacecraft to visit perhaps the most enchanting planet. A team of CU-Boulder students designed, built and tested the Student Dust Counter (SDC) for the mission to measure dust particles along the way — remnants of collisions between solar system bodies — making it the first student built and operated instrument ever to fly on a NASA planetary mission.