As NASA probe nears Pluto, Ames hosts live screening

Closest look yet at solar system's dwarf planet expected Tuesday

The world will get an unprecedented view of Pluto on Tuesday when a NASA spacecraft launched nine years ago nears the icy dwarf planet. To commemorate the historic event, the NASA Ames Research Center is inviting the public to watch a live broadcast as New Horizon begins its closest approach of Pluto and comes within 7,800 miles of the planet's surface.

Measuring about the size of a piano, the New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006 as part of a NASA goal to reach every planet in the solar system. During its 3 billion-mile voyage, the spacecraft swung around Jupiter to boost speed by using the large planet's gravitational pull. Last month, the probe awoke from a hibernation period, signaling it was on schedule to arrive for the closest look yet at Pluto and the surrounding Kuiper Belt.

The moment of closest approach will be marked during the live NASA TV broadcast that includes a countdown and discussion of what's expected next as New Horizons makes its way past Pluto and potentially dangerous debris.

A live viewing event is planned for Tuesday afternoon, but attendance was capped at 300 people who pre-registered. For those not in that lucky group, live video of the New Horizon approach will be available at the NASA website:

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8 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

This is a great time to be alive when it comes to the exploration of space! First, we get to see Ceres. Now, we get to see Pluto and its five moons. How marvelous!

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2015 at 8:05 am

Too bad NASA didn't try to crash into Pluto like LCROSS. 7800 miles is still pretty far away from Pluto. But after 9 years it's pretty good.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2015 at 10:01 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Anonymous: I hope that NASA will be able to send a lander next time.

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 14, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Sunlight is 1000x dimmer out there, so pictures need longer exposures. Passing by Pluto at 30,000 mph, can't be much closer than 7800 miles or things get blurred. Certainly can't crash the camera, because the photos are still just on the memory stick and haven't been downloaded yet. Gigabytes take a very, very long time at 1000 bits per second.

Though closest approach was 11 hours ago, we need to wait two more hours to hear whether the spacecraft survived a rather complicated command sequence. New Horizons was incommunicado while pointing its instruments toward Pluto and various moons, because that moves the main antenna away from pointing at Earth. It was supposed to reacquire Earth and send us a congratulatory status message two and a half hours ago -- that message hasn't even reached Saturn yet.

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Healthy message received! Unbridled joy at Mission Operations.

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