The Australian science team to get the first signals from Pluto will celebrate with a chocolate frog

P)luto. Three billion miles from Earth and just two and a half million miles from Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has taken its best image of four dark spots that continue to captivate.

The Australian science team bringing in the first image signals from Pluto tonight will celebrate with a chicken pasta bake.

Traditionally, the team also breaks out chocolate frogs because no alcohol is allowed.

“No champagne for us,” says the CSIRO’s Glen Nagle. “We have this thing called professional excitement.”

The group of 18 people at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex will be the first in the world to get the signal from NASA’s spacecraft New Horizons as it makes its closest encounter with the dwarf planet Pluto and its moons.

The craft will get closest, about 12,500 km above the surface, at 9:49.57 pm (AEST) today. The signals it sends will then take four and one half hours to reach the the centre in the ACT.

The signal then goes to the US where images are created from the data stream.

Tonight there will be one image, a full frame of the dwarf planet, as the spacecraft approaches Pluto. This will be released at 10pm AEST.

You can watch the action live HERE.

The other close up images will start to be released publicly Wednesday night, Australia time.

“We get to see them here in Canberra at the same time as everyone else in the world,” says CSIRO’s Glen Nagle, who looks after the relationship with NASA. “They are putting out the images virtually as they receive them.”

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