“Three billion miles away, Pluto has sent a “love note” back to Earth, via NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.”
July 13 – 16 hours before Pluto’s closest approach to the New Horizons space craft, the roving rocket captured this stunning image of one of Pluto’s most dazzling and dominant features. The “heart,”
The heart is estimated to be 1,000 miles across at its widest point and it rests just above the equator.
Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado,
“Wow!My prediction was that we would find something wonderful, and we did. This is proof that good things really do come in small packages.”
This newest image comes from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).
It now appears that Pluto has been impacted on multiple occasions which helps to indicate that Pluto may be several billion years old.
New Horizons has traveled nearly a decade to receive its summer valentine, launching on January 19, 2006.
This is just the first and latest in a series of upcoming Pluto “picture show.” On Wednesday July 15, more images of surface close-ups will make the more than four-hour journey to Earth at the speed of light to give Pluto fans details as small as New York’s Central Park.
“Our data tomorrow (Wednesday, July 15) will have ten times the resolution of what we see today and it will knock your socks off,” said Stern.”
Update: “July 14 New Horizons sped past Pluto at 30,800 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour), with a suite of seven science instruments. As planned, New Horizons went incommunicado as it hurtled through the Pluto-Charon system busily gathering data. The New Horizons team will breathe a sigh of relief when New Horizons “phones home” at approximately 9:02 p.m. EDT on July 14. The mission to the icy dwarf planet completes the initial reconnaissance of the solar system.”
“The New Horizons team selected instruments that not only would directly measure NASA’s items of interest, but also provide backup to other instruments on the spacecraft should one fail during the mission.
The science payload includes seven instruments:
Ralph: Visible and infrared imager/spectrometer; provides color, composition and thermal maps.
Alice: Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer; analyzes composition and structure of Pluto’s atmosphere and looks for atmospheres around Charon and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).
REX: (Radio Science EXperiment) Measures atmospheric composition and temperature; passive radiometer.
LORRI: (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) telescopic camera; obtains encounter data at long distances, maps Pluto’s farside and provides high resolution geologic data.
SWAP: (Solar Wind Around Pluto) Solar wind and plasma spectrometer; measures atmospheric “escape rate” and observes Pluto’s interaction with solar wind.
PEPSSI: (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation) Energetic particle spectrometer; measures the composition and density of plasma (ions) escaping from Pluto’s atmosphere.
SDC: (Student Dust Counter) Built and operated by students; measures the space dust peppering New Horizons during its voyage across the solar system.”