30 Jun '15, 6pm

After a 9-Year Voyage, New Horizons Will Have Little Time to Measure Pluto’s Atmosphere

Illustration: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute Long Way From Home: New Horizons will use radio waves from Earth to analyze Pluto’s atmosphere. In a few short weeks, the NASA New Horizons spacecraft will finish a long, lonely trek through the outer solar system and zip past Pluto. It will gather the first close-up views of the erstwhile ninth planet and examine, among other things, Pluto’s thin atmosphere by measuring sunlight and radio waves that pass through it. The 14 July encounter has been a long time in the making. It has taken New Horizons more than nine years to make its way from Earth to Pluto, which was demoted and reclassified by the International Astronomical Union as a “dwarf planet ” while the spacecraft was en route. The US $700 million mission has fared well so far, hibernating for long stretches along the way....

Full article: http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/astrophysics/after-a-9...

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After a 9-Year Voyage, New Horizons Will Have M...

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Illustration: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute Long Way From Home: New Hor...

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In 2006, Pluto lost a bit of its planetary luster when the International Astronomical Union downgraded it to dwarf status....