It has been done. Mankind has today officially reached, what scientists have repeatedly called, the dead end of our solar system. Pluto it is, and yes, as you must have viewed on NASA’s live broadcast already, the New Horizons went past Pluto To Complete Its Flyby just a few moments ago.
Till now we only have pictures of Pluto taken from Hubble Telescope which shows Pluto as a blurry blob. However, New Horizons has already sent much more clear pictures of Pluto; one of the most intriguing was the one showing a heart like structure over the surface of Pluto.
Once it reaches its destination near the Pluto, we are going to have the first clear pictures of the beloved planet which was first discovered in 1930. New Horizons is expected to keep sending data over the period of next 16 months which have the potential to unlock many secrets of our solar system. But speeds are dreadfully slow. Like archaically, BSNLly slow. 2 Kilobytes per second is the downlink speed, with a signal taking to 4 hours to reach Earth.
New Horizons has been on a 9 year long journey travelling more than 3 billion miles since 2006 when it was first launched into space. On the way, it made flybys past Jupiter, and further using its immense gravity, further sped up by a slingshot to reach where it is today.
To keep things in perspective, we are looking at a spacecraft running and made out of decade-old technology which is now on its way to explore the farthest region of our solar system, the Kuiper Belt which is said to be holding the secrets of solar system from its beginning.
The said Kuiper Belt contains many such so called dwarf planets which are mostly frozen and covered with ice caps, preserving in them the remains from the times when solar system was formed.
Coincidentally, just after 8 months New Horizons was launched to explore Pluto, International Astronomical Union stripped the title of planet away from Pluto, giving it a status of Dwarf Planet due to a similar body called Eris found in 2005 which led to the debate of a 10th planet or a revival of the definition of planet.
Eris was found larger in size than Pluto which gave rise to this debate and ultimately Pluto was recognized as among the 5 dwarf planets in that region. However latest pics from New Horizons have confirmed that Pluto is much larger than the estimates of scientists.
It is worth noting that New Horizons is going to remain near the orbit for Pluto for very few minutes during its flyby and will take all the pictures and collect as many as data it can about Pluto and its 5 moons ( 2 of which were discovered after New Horizons had already been launched).
But the journey of New Horizons will not end here as scientists are expecting it to cover one more object of Kuiper belt after it flies by Pluto and before it ends its journey.
However there is a considerable risk which is keeping the mission scientist on their toes. Large debris is estimated to be around the orbit of Pluto and debris as small as the size of a rice grain. It can lead to a fatal blow to New Horizons.
However, leading scientists have ensured that they expect New Horizons to succeed in its mission, something which people all over the world are expecting to as this is that one historic event, which our coming generations will continue to cherish.
NASA has been streaming the event live since 7:30 AM (ET) followed by a briefing of mission from 8 am to 9 am. As per the Indian time, New Horizons will be nearest to Pluto at 5:19 PM today. You can check out NASA’s Live Stream below :
FEATURED Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
NASA has released a spectacular image of Pluto, which new Horizons took just before the flyby. Take a look, and keep it with you !
SNEAK PEEK of gorgeous Pluto! The dwarf planet has sent a love note back to Earth via our New Horizons spacecraft, which has traveled more than 9 years and 3+ billion miles. This is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach – 7:49 a.m. EDT today. This same image will be released and discussed at 8 a.m. EDT today. Watch our briefing live on NASA Television at: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv The high res pic will be posted on the web at: http://www.nasa.gov. This stunning image of the dwarf planet was captured from New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach. The spacecraft was 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) from the surface. Image Credit: NASA #nasa #pluto #plutoflyby #newhorizons #solarsystem #nasabeyond #science