In January, 2006, NASA launched the fastest spacecraft in history toward the dwarf planet, Pluto. Now, the spacecraft — called New Horizons — is hastening toward its destination and is scheduled to make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14 of this year.
On that epic day, New Horizons will use its slew of instruments on board to capture images of the distant icy world in unprecedented detail — hundreds of times clearer and thousands of times closer than the Hubble Space Telescope could ever hope to achieve.
Scientists on the New Horizons team have been patiently waiting for this moment for nearly a decade, and now their time is fast approaching. Here are 10 infographics by NASA that will teach you everything scientists know so far about icy Pluto.
This shows what will happen in the days leading up to and following New Horizon's fly by of this frigid world:
Not only will New Horizons get a glimpse of Pluto, but it will also pass by the dwarf planet's 5 moons. Here are their names:
Besides its temperature, scientists know very little about Pluto and even less about its moons. These instruments on board New Horizons will collect data that scientists will study for years to come.
Because Pluto is so far from Earth, the New Horizons team has to wait 4.5 hours to talk to their beloved spacecraft. Imagine a phone call that took 9 hours just to exchange greetings!
But it's well worth the wait because there are important questions this team has been dying to answer. Here are just a few:
The road to Pluto has not only been a long one in distance but also in time. Here's what has transpired since the spacecraft Voyager 1 took the first picture of Pluto in 1989:
Pluto is only the beginning for New Horizons. Beyond, is what astronomers call the Kuiper Belt, which was only recently discovered in the '90s and awaits exploration.
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