Pluto (the planet)!

Pluto 2015-07-13

Pluto… like no one has ever seen it before!

(At least no one on Earth!)

Update 10:24 CST:

Pluto fly by

At this point, New Horizons has passed Pluto.

Of course, it’s nearly four-and-a-half light hours away, and it’s busy with science stuff, so we won’t see the really great pictures until much later when the spacecraft finally takes time to send them.

Update 14:26 CST:

Pluto and Charon (false color)

False color images of Pluto and Charon that show the interesting geology.

It’s going to be an exciting evening, what with the MLB All-Star Game (with Brian Dozier and Glen Perkins) and the NASA press conference reporting the first communication from New Horizons (and even more impressive photos).

There is an element of anxiety here. The spacecraft wranglers won’t know for sure New Horizons survived the close encounter until they hear from it, a bit more than five hours from right now.

Update 16:09 CST:

Randall Monroe commemorated the Pluto flyby with a cartoon (of course!) as well as with a new What If? post. In that post I found this paragraph as useful as he does:

“How fast is 14 kilometers per second? Here’s my favorite comparison for putting that speed in perspective: If you were standing at one end of a football field and fired a gun toward the other end, right while New Horizons flew past you, the spacecraft would reach the far end zone before the bullet made it to the 10-yard line.”

Far less evocative is that, at 14 kilometers per second, New Horizons is traveling at 0.005% (five thousandths of one percent) of the speed of light. For comparison, the Earth’s orbital speed around the sun is just a bit over twice the speed of New Horizons.

Incidentally, that high speed gives and takes away. It got us to Pluto in only nine-and-a-half years (New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched), but it also means there no chance of entering orbit around Pluto (whose orbital speed is a mere 4.7 km/s).

Update 19:58 CST:

NH 2015-07-14 2000Watching NASA TV… New Horizons has reported home, and all systems are green! The spacecraft safely passed Pluto (the planet) and seemingly accomplished all its science goals (on the strength that data buffers contain the expected amount of data).

No “rules” were triggered with regard to the spacecraft’s autonomous (science gathering) program. (I assume that means nothing unexpected happened.)

So the hardware and software is healthy and there’s cargo in the hold!

Whoo Hoo! They did it! Congrats NASA and everyone else involved!!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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