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Space exploration - NASA's New Horizons unmanned spacecraft over Pluto and Charon; space probe; New Frontiers; spacecraft; spaceship; aerospace; astrodynamics; a panchromatic high-magnification imager; high-gain antenna (HGA); Solar Wind Around Pluto; SWAP; star trackers; Kuiper belt objects; plutoids; trans-Neptunian objects  - Space Art Illustration

New Horizons over Pluto & Charon

NASA’s New Horizons unmanned spacecraft flies by dwarf planet Pluto and its moon Charon. New Horizons was launched from Earth in 2006 and made its closest approach to Pluto on 14 July 2015 passing 7,800 miles above Pluto's surface at a speed of 51,000 mph.

New Horizons is about the size and shape of a grand piano and weighed 1,054 pounds at launch. The high-gain dish antenna is about 7 feet in diameter and is employed for communication with the Earth.

In this image the New Horizons spacecraft is about 10,000 miles from Pluto (upper right), 22,000 miles from its largest moon Charon (upper left) and 2.97 billion miles from the Earth. Dominating this side of the spacecraft with an 8 inch aperture is the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), a digital camera with a large telephoto telescope fortified to operate in the cold, hostile environs of deep space. At 90 days before closest approach  to Pluto, LORRI's images surpassed the quality of the best Hubble Space Telescope images of Pluto.

Having passed Pluto, New Horizons is currently on its way to a January 2019 encounter with a classical Kuiper belt object (cubewano) named 2014 MU69.

This illustration was created prior to New Horizon's reconnaissance of Pluto and therefore does not necessarily depict what is now known about Pluto's appearance.


Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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