Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. 24/7 Space News .




OUTER PLANETS
New Horizons Crosses Neptune Orbit On Route To First Pluto Flyby
by Staff Writers
Laurel MD (SPX) Aug 26, 2014


NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft captured this view of the giant planet Neptune and its large moon Triton on July 10, 2014, from a distance of about 2.45 billion miles (3.96 billion kilometers) - more than 26 times the distance between the Earth and sun. Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. For a larger version of this image please go here.

NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14, 2015.

The sophisticated piano-sized spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, reached Neptune's orbit -- nearly 2.75 billion miles from Earth -- in a record eight years and eight months. New Horizons' milestone matches precisely the 25th anniversary of the historic encounter of NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft with Neptune on Aug. 25, 1989.

"It's a cosmic coincidence that connects one of NASA's iconic past outer solar system explorers, with our next outer solar system explorer," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"Exactly 25 years ago at Neptune, Voyager 2 delivered our 'first' look at an unexplored planet. Now it will be New Horizons' turn to reveal the unexplored Pluto and its moons in stunning detail next summer on its way into the vast outer reaches of the solar system."

New Horizons now is about 2.48 billion miles from Neptune -- nearly 27 times the distance between the Earth and our sun -- as it crosses the giant planet's orbit at 10:04 p.m. EDT Monday. Although the spacecraft will be much farther from the planet than Voyager 2's closest approach, New Horizons' telescopic camera was able to obtain several long-distance "approach" shots of Neptune on July 10.

"NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 explored the entire middle zone of the solar system where the giant planets orbit," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "Now we stand on Voyager's broad shoulders to explore the even more distant and mysterious Pluto system."

Several senior members of the New Horizons science team were young members of Voyager's science team in 1989. Many remember how Voyager 2's approach images of Neptune and its planet-sized moon Triton fueled anticipation of the discoveries to come. They share a similar, growing excitement as New Horizons begins its approach to Pluto.

"The feeling 25 years ago was that this was really cool, because we're going to see Neptune and Triton up-close for the first time," said Ralph McNutt of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, who leads the New Horizons energetic-particle investigation and served on the Voyager plasma-analysis team.

"The same is happening for New Horizons. Even this summer, when we're still a year out and our cameras can only spot Pluto and its largest moon as dots, we know we're in for something incredible ahead."

Voyager's visit to the Neptune system revealed previously unseen features of Neptune itself, such as the Great Dark Spot, a massive storm similar to, but not as long-lived, as Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Voyager also, for the first time, captured clear images of the ice giant's ring system, too faint to be clearly viewed from Earth.

"There were surprises at Neptune and there were surprises at Triton," said Ed Stone, Voyager's long-standing project scientist from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "I'm sure that will continue at Pluto."

Many researchers feel the 1989 Neptune flyby -- Voyager's final planetary encounter -- might have offered a preview of what's to come next summer. Scientists suggest that Triton, with its icy surface, bright poles, varied terrain and cryovolcanoes, is a Pluto-like object that Neptune pulled into orbit. Scientists recently restored Voyager's footage of Triton and used it to construct the best global color map of that strange moon yet -- further whetting appetites for a Pluto close-up.

"There is a lot of speculation over whether Pluto will look like Triton, and how well they'll match up," McNutt said. "That's the great thing about first-time encounters like this -- we don't know exactly what we'll see, but we know from decades of experience in first-time exploration of new planets that we will be very surprised."

Similar to Voyager 1 and 2's historic observations, New Horizons also is on a path toward potential discoveries in the Kuiper Belt, which is a disc-shaped region of icy objects past the orbit of Neptune, and other unexplored realms of the outer solar system and beyond.

"No country except the United States has the demonstrated capability to explore so far away," said Stern. "The U.S. has led the exploration of the planets and space to a degree no other nation has, and continues to do so with New Horizons. We're incredibly proud that New Horizons represents the nation again as NASA breaks records with its newest, farthest and very capable planetary exploration spacecraft."

Voyager 1 and 2 were launched 16 days apart in 1977, and one of the spacecraft visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 now is the most distant human-made object, about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) away from the sun. In 2012, it became the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. Voyager 2, the longest continuously operated spacecraft, is about 9 billion miles (15 billion kilometers) away from our sun.

New Horizons is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers program. APL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. APL also built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft.

.


Related Links
New Horizons
The million outer planets of a star called Sol






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





OUTER PLANETS
From Pinpoint of Light to a Geologic World
Laurel MD (SPX) Aug 15, 2014
I'm an astronomer and I've been studying Pluto as a pinpoint of light for over 25 years. It will be so exciting to see this little white dot turn into a geologic world in a matter of weeks. What can we learn by looking at tiny Pluto through a telescope? It turns out quite a bit. We've already identified and mapped some of the ices on its surface: nitrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide. ... read more


OUTER PLANETS
China Aims for the Moon, Plans to Bring Back Lunar Soil

Electric Sparks May Alter Evolution of Lunar Soil

China to test recoverable moon orbiter

China to send orbiter to moon and back

OUTER PLANETS
Scientist uncovers red planet's climate history in unique meteorite

Opportunity Mars Rover Suffers a Series of Resets

A Salty, Martian Meteorite Offers Clues to Habitability

Mars Rover Team Chooses Not to Drill 'Bonanza King'

OUTER PLANETS
US to Stop Using Soyuz Spacecraft, Invest in Domestic Private Space Industry

25 Years After Neptune: Reflections on Voyager

Long-term spaceflights challenged as harm to astronauts' health revealed

Voyager Map Details Neptune's Strange Moon Triton

OUTER PLANETS
Same-beam VLBI Tech monitors Chang'E-3 movement on moon

China Sends Remote-Sensing Satellite into Orbit

More Tasks for China's Moon Mission

China's Circumlunar Spacecraft Unmasked

OUTER PLANETS
NASA Awaits Boeing's Completion of Soyuz Replacement

Belka and Strelka, the canine cosmonauts

Russian Cosmonauts Conclude EVA Ahead of Schedule

Orbital cargo ship makes planned re-entry to Earth

OUTER PLANETS
Sea Launch Takes Proactive Steps to Address Manifest Gap

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

Russian Cosmonauts Carry Out Science-Oriented Spacewalk Outside ISS

Optus 10 delivered to French Guiana for Ariane 5 Sept launch

OUTER PLANETS
Orion Rocks! Pebble-Size Particles May Jump-Start Planet Formation

Rotation of Planets Influences Habitability

Planet-like object may have spent its youth as hot as a star

Young binary star system may form planets with weird and wild orbits

OUTER PLANETS
New EIAST Primary Sat Fab Facilities Ready Soon

Photon speedway puts big data in the fast lane

The fluorescent fingerprint of plastics

Atoms to Product: Aiming to Make Nanoscale Benefits Life-sized




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.