The New Horizons spacecraft closes in on Pluto and is now less than 1 million miles away sending new never before seen photos of Pluto's surface.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is only one day away from the historic July 14 Pluto flyby. The spacecraft is continuing to transmit photos of Pluto's surface as it approaches. Each series of photos reveals more details never seen before.
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On July 11, 2015, New Horizons captured the image above, which suggests some new features that are of keen interest to the Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team now assembled at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland.
For the first time on Pluto, this view reveals linear features that may be cliffs, as well as a circular feature that could be an impact crater. Just starting to rotate into view on the left side of the image is the bright heart-shaped feature that will be seen in more detail during New Horizons’ closest approach.
Rotating into view is the bright heart-shaped feature that will be seen in more detail during New Horizons’ closest approach on July 14. The annotated version includes a diagram indicating Pluto’s north pole, equator, and central meridian. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
The New Horizons spacecraft has passed the one million miles to Pluto milestone at 11:23 p.m. EDT, Sunday, July 12. The spacecraft is approaching Pluto after a more than nine-year, three-billion mile journey.
At 7:49 AM EDT on Tuesday, July 14 the unmanned spacecraft will fly by past Pluto at 30,800 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour), with a suite of seven science instruments gathering data. The mission will complete the initial reconnaissance of the solar system with the first-ever look at the icy dwarf planet.
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It is getting exciting for NASA's Pluto flyby mission team. After a more than nine-year, three-billion-mile journey to Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft will at the closest distance on July 14 at 7:49:57 am EDT. New Horizons will be approximately 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) above the surface at this time.
NASA has started daily briefings about the final approach to Pluto on NASA TV airing daily now at 11:30am EDT until July 14. On July 14 the Pluto Countdown Program will air from 7:30am to 8am. The images of the Pluto Flyby will be released on Wednesday July 15 at 3 to 4pm.
To get educated on Pluto watch NASA's Pluto in a minute video series below.
New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as part of NASA's New Frontiers program. Built by the Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute, with a team led by S. Alan Stern, the spacecraft was launched to study Pluto, its moons and the Kuiper Belt, performing flybys of the Pluto system and one or more Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). The goal of the mission is to understand the formation of the Pluto system, the Kuiper Belt, and the transformation of the early Solar System.
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The spacecraft will study the atmospheres, surfaces, interiors and environments of Pluto and its moons. It will also study other objects in the Kuiper Belt. Find more on the historic space mission background on Wikipedia and on the New Horizons Mission page on NASA.