GN Bureau | February 5, 2015
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s New Horizons spacecraft, en route Pluto, has sent the first image of the dwarf planet.
The planet in the image looks like a dot along with its largest moon Charon. The image has come on the 109th birth anniversary of American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the distant icy world (planet Pluto) in 1930.
The official statement by NASA has quoted Clyde’s daughter Ammettee Tombaugh saying “My dad would be thrilled with New Horizons. To actually see the planet that he had discovered, and find out more about it -- to get to see the moons of Pluto-- he would have been astounded. I'm sure it would have meant so much to him if he were still alive today.”
According to the US space agency, the New Horizons was more than 126 million miles (nearly 203 million kilometers) away from planet when it began clicking its images.
The images, taken with New Horizons’ telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) are the first acquired during the spacecraft’s 2015 approach to the Pluto system.
New Horizons spacecraft has already covered more than 3 billion miles since its launch on January 19, 2006. Its journey has taken it past each planet’s orbit, from Mars to Neptune, in record time, and it is now in the first stage of an encounter with Pluto that includes long-distance imaging as well as dust, energetic particle and solar wind measurements to characterize the space environment near Pluto.
Over the few months, the spacecraft will send more images of the planet as it will move towards it.
“Pluto is becoming more than just a pinpoint of light,” said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “The dwarf planet will continue to grow larger and larger in the images as New Horizons spacecraft hurtles toward its targets.”
Read more about New Horizons spacecraft and Pluto
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