Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pluto: amazing NASA flyby

Associated Press (; Wisdom Quarterly (UPDATE)
U.S. travels 3 billion miles to come within 7,800 miles of planet-like Pluto (LATimes)
The sky (akasha, "space") is FULL of complex intelligent life in Buddhist cosmology.

Provided by NASA/Johns Hopkins Univ. Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute shows Pluto, right, and its moon, Charon, from the New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) combined with lower-resolution color information from the spacecraft's Ralph instrument (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via AP).

It's showtime for Pluto; prepare to be amazed by NASA flyby
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - Pluto, reveal thyself, and Earthlings, enjoy the show.

On Tuesday, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will sweep past Pluto and present the previously unexplored world in all its icy glory. It promises to be the biggest planetary unveiling in a quarter-century. The curtain hasn't been pulled back like this since NASA's Voyager 2 shed light on Neptune in 1989.

Now it's little Pluto's turn to shine way out on the frigid fringes of our solar system. New Horizons has traveled 3 billion miles over 9½ years to get to this historic point. The fastest spacecraft ever launched, it carries the most powerful suite of science instruments ever sent on a scouting and reconnaissance mission of a new, unfamiliar world.

Pretending to scour space: Planetfinder is sent out when other arms of the government know full well that there are other worlds and life and culture on them (

Guarantees principal scientist Alan Stern, "We're going to knock your socks off." The size of a baby grand piano, the spacecraft will come closest to Pluto on Tuesday morning -- at 7:49 am EDT. That's when New Horizons is predicted to pass within 7,767 miles of Pluto. Fourteen minutes later, the spacecraft will zoom within 17,931 miles of Charon, Pluto's jumbo moon.

For the plutophiles among us, it will be cause to celebrate, especially for those gathered at the operations center at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The lab designed and built the spacecraft for NASA, and has been managing its roundabout route through the solar system.

"What NASA's doing with New Horizons is unprecedented in our time and probably something close to the last train to Clarksville, the last picture show, for a very, very long time," says Stern, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

It is the last stop in NASA's quest to explore every planet in our solar system, starting with Venus in 1962. And in a cosmic coincidence, the Pluto visit falls on the 50th anniversary of the first-ever flyby of Mars, by Mariner 4.
Yes, we all know Pluto is no longer an official planet, merely a dwarf, but it still enjoyed full planet status when New Horizons rocketed from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan. 19, 2006. Pluto's demotion came just seven months later, a sore subject still for many.

"We're kind of running the anchor leg with Pluto to finish the relay," Stern says. The sneak peeks of Pluto in recent weeks are getting "juicier and juicier," says Johns Hopkins project scientist Hal Weaver. "The science team is just drooling over these pictures."

The Hubble Space Telescope previously captured the best pictures of Pluto. If the pixelated blobs of pictures had been of Earth, though, not even the continents would have been visible. The New Horizons team is turning "a point of light into a planet," Stern says. More

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