Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Countdown to Pluto

Hey Space Placers!

Mark your calendars now - July 14, 2015. That is the day that humanity will finally visit the last planet of the solar system classification most of us grew up with - Pluto - the 9th planet.

That was the solar system as it existed when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, managed by our very own Johns Hopkins University, launched from Earth on January 19, 2006. Just over seven months later Pluto was demoted to being a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union due to a controversial vote comprised of only 5% of eligible astronomers.

Regardless of its status Pluto is one of a class of icy, frigid and intriguing solar system bodies that we have not visited before. The best view we have gotten of Pluto is from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). That will change when New Horizons passes the "BTH Line" or Better Than Hubble view in January 2015.

Science operations for the encounter will begin April 12, 2015.

We will learn a lot about Pluto and beyond during the New Horizons mission. HST is currently looking for a new target for New Horizons to fly to after the Pluto encounter. And why not. It will be a very long time until funds become available again for a mission this far out so fly New Horizons as far as she can go and still perform science.

Check out this NASA article on the mission and the neat video.

I WILL obtain a picture of Pluto with my own telescope before the flyby so I can say I imaged Pluto before everything we knew changed. You will see it too.

The clock is ticking, 364 days to encounter.

Sky Guy in VA

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