As I’m sure many of you are aware by now, NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft will finally be completing its flyby of the ex-planet Pluto today, gathering images and data that have been unachievable up until now.
This is ground-breaking work, and will mean that, once and for all, all nine of the original planets will have been visited by a space probe. This will allow NASA to finally complete the initial reconnaissance of the solar system. The probe will also venture into the mostly unknown Kuiper Belt, and will send back valuable and never before accessed information about the outskirts of our solar system in upcoming years. New Horizon has already begun teaching us about Pluto, with a new, larger diameter for the dwarf planet being measured yesterday.
Once the probe is just 12,500 km from Pluto’s surface (around midday today GMT), it will be able to capture images never seen before, but the massive distance between us and Pluto means that it will be 00:53 GMT before they are received on Earth. This means for a very anxious wait to see if New Horizon has been successful in this very long-awaited and significant task.
So far, New Horizon is working well and is on track for the flyby, but we are all still on tenterhooks, as there is a chance the spacecraft could be damaged by ice debris or miss its intended target and lose this amazing opportunity to capture Pluto closer than ever possible before.
It’s certainly an exciting day for scientists everywhere, and I personally cannot wait to see the outcome.
You can watch the flyby live from NASA here.
You can also find out more about the New Horizons mission, including instrument details. on the NASA website here.