One million miles might sound like an long way, but for the NASA spacecraft on its way to Pluto it’s the very last stretch of a much longer journey.
On July 11, the spacecraft reached a milestone: only 1 million miles to go until it reaches its historic flyby past Pluto. The spacecraft celebrated by snapping this photo of Pluto (right) and its largest moon Charon (left):
The spacecraft, called New Horizons, has spent the last 9 years in space covering over 3 billion miles. So, one more million is like the last 0.2 miles in a 26.2-mile marathon.
The finish line is finally in sight!
Even at a distance of one million miles, however, the spacecraft is already making important discoveries. For example, NASA announced that they now have a firm estimate of Pluto’s size, which they have calculated to have a diameter of 1,473 miles — slightly larger than previous estimates.
“The size of Pluto has been debated since its discovery in 1930,” said New Horizons mission scientist Bill McKinnon in NASA release. “We are excited to finally lay this question to rest.”
This latest information also confirms that Pluto is the largest object in the solar system beyond the farthest planet, Neptune.
What’s more, this latest photo — the most detailed yet — is clear enough to reveal never-before-seen features on Pluto’s surface: Shown below is a distinct circular feature in the bottom right corner of Pluto that could be a crater. That’s not the only exciting feature, though.
“For the first time on Pluto, this view reveals linear features that may be cliffs, as well as a circular feature that could be an impact crater,” NASA said in a release.
Here’s a diagram showing some of the newest features on Pluto’s surface that had never been seen before the New Horizons mission:
You can follow live time status information on the speed and distance of this speedy spacecraft in real time on LIVECometData.com.
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