First, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft found mysterious lights on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.
The spacecraft needs to take a very calculated path past Pluto and its moons, to ensure its instruments point where they are supposed to on the 14th. “Soon we will know if there are differences in the presence of methane ice from one part of Pluto to another”, said Dr Will Grundy of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, a planetary scientists for the New Horizons mission.
Shortly, New Horizons’ Mission Operations Center, which is based at Johns Hopkins University, will upload the commands that will drive the observation sequence during the flyby. But it is finally homing in on its ultimate destination.
On July 14 the spacecraft will make its closest approach to the dwarf planet, flying within 7,700 miles of the surface.
On February 28 2007, New Horizons had passed by Jupiter at a distance of 2.3 Km from the planet, and used the giant planet’s gravity to boost its speed by 4 km a second.
Consequently, with the New Horizons spacecraft nearing Pluto, the astronomical community hasn’t been as excited as this since August 1989, when we enthusiastically waited for the Voyager 2 spacecraft to give us our first detailed view of Neptune.
Two newly released colour images show the different faces of Pluto.
NASA speculates that Pluto inherited its methane from the time the of the solar system’s creation, about 4.5 billion years ago.
However, no quick solution to the dark spot mystery is forthcoming right now as New Horizon will not be seeing the hemisphere containing the spots on July 14 though those sections will definitely be covered in the coming days. After its encounter with Pluto, the vehicle will continue its journey away from the Sunday.
Artist’s rendering of New Horizons at Pluto. As for Charon, the images paint the moon as having a dark polar region, with variations in brightness at lower latitudes.
During the end of 2005, astronomer Mike Brown had been leading a team that made the unbelievable discovery of an icy body that is considerably bigger in size than Pluto and had been orbiting the sun much further out in space. Just a few hours after its flyby, the spacecraft will watch sunlight passing through the frozen world’s atmosphere, which will allow scientists to determine the atmosphere’s compostion.
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