Science

Pluto: The final frontier

Exploration

The United States was the first nation to reach every planet from Mercury to Neptune with a space probe. If New Horizons is successful, the US will have completed the initial exploration of the solar system.

Mercury

MARINER 10

Feb. 1974

48 to 137.9

million

FIRST MISSION

DATE OF CLOSEST FLYBY

DISTANCE FROM EARTH *

Venus

MARINER 2

Dec. 1962

26 to 160 million

Earth

moon

APOLLO 8

Dec. 1968

238,900

Mars

MARINER 4

July 1965

34.8 to 250

million

Jupiter

SURVEYING OUR

SOLAR SYSTEM

The first NASA missions to our moon and the planets in our solar system.

 

PIONEER 10

Dec. 1973

365 to 601 million

Except for the moon, range indicates nearest and farthest orbiting distances from the Sun.

*

Saturn

PIONEER 11

Sept. 1979

746 million to 1 billion

sun

 

ULYSSES

1994 to 1995

91.4 to 94.5 million

Uranus

VOYAGER 2

Jan. 1986

1.6 to 1.9 billion

Neptune

VOYAGER 2

Aug. 1989

2.7 to 2.9

billion

Pluto

 

NEW HORIZONS

July 14, 2015

2.6 to 4.6

billion

Exploration

The United States was the first nation to reach every planet from Mercury to Neptune with a space probe. If New Horizons is successful, the US will have completed the initial exploration of the solar system.

Mercury

MARINER 10

Feb. 1974

48 to 137.9

million

FIRST MISSION

DATE OF CLOSEST FLYBY

DISTANCE FROM EARTH *

Venus

MARINER 2

Dec. 1962

26 to 160 million

Earth

APOLLO 8

Dec. 1968

238,900

moon

MARINER 4

July 1965

34.8 to 250

million

Mars

Jupiter

SURVEYING OUR

SOLAR SYSTEM

The first NASA missions to our moon and the planets in our solar system.

 

PIONEER 10

Dec. 1973

365 to 601 million

*

Except for the moon, range indicates nearest and farthest orbiting distances from the Sun.

sun

 

Saturn

ULYSSES

1994 to 1995

91.4 to 94.5 million

PIONEER 11

Sept. 1979

746 million to 1 billion

Uranus

VOYAGER 2

Jan. 1986

1.6 to 1.9 billion

Neptune

VOYAGER 2

Aug. 1989

2.7 to 2.9

billion

Pluto

 

NEW HORIZONS

July 14, 2015

2.6 to 4.6

billion

Exploration

The United States was the first nation to reach every planet from Mercury to Neptune with a space probe. If New Horizons is successful, the US will have completed the initial exploration of the solar system.

SURVEYING OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

The first NASA missions to our moon and the planets in our solar system. Organized in order of our first exploration.

FIRST MISSION

Venus

DATE OF CLOSEST FLYBY

MARINER 2

Dec. 1962

26 to 160 million

DISTANCE FROM SUN*

Range indicates nearest and farthest orbiting distances from the Sun. The moon’s distance is from Earth. Planets are not shown to scale.

Mars

MARINER 4

July 1965

34.8 to 250 million

Moon

APOLLO 8

Dec. 1968

238,900

Jupiter

PIONEER 10

Dec. 1973

365 to 601 million

Mercury

MARINER 10

Feb. 1974

48 to 137.9 million

Saturn

PIONEER 11

Sept. 1979

746 million to 1 billion

Uranus

VOYAGER 2

Jan. 1986

1.6 to 1.9 billion

Neptune

VOYAGER 2

Aug. 1989

2.7 to 2.9 billion

5 billion

sun

ULYSSES

1994 to 1995

91.4 to 94.5 million

Pluto

NEW HORIZONS

July 14, 2015

2.6 to 4.6 billion

Pluto

Compared to other planets in our solar system, we know very little about Pluto. It is the largest object in the Kuiper belt, the 10th most massive known body directly orbiting the sun, and the second most massive known dwarf planet, after Eris. What is known before New Horizons’ visit:

Key developments after Pluto’s 1930 discovery

1992

Kuiper belt discovered

Jan. 2006

New Horizons probe launched

July 14, 2015

New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto

2005

Eris, an object larger than Pluto, is discovered

Aug. 2006

Pluto reclassified as a dwarf planet

A PLANET?

On Aug. 24, 2006, Pluto was demoted from a planet by the International Astronomical Union. After discovering Eris in 2005, an object larger than Pluto, a debate ensued on what was considered a planet. IAU created a new definition that Pluto did not meet, and it was reclassified as a dwarf planet (or ice dwarf), a round object orbiting beyond Neptune.

Charon

Pluto

An artist’s rendering of what Pluto

may look like based on recent

New Horizons’ images.

BINARY PLANET

Pluto's largest moon, Charon, is half the size of Pluto. The pair form a binary planet, which means their gravitational balance point is between the two bodies.

It takes 6.4 Earth days for Pluto to make a complete orbit around the gravitational center.

Gravitational center

Pluto

Charon

UNIQUE ORBIT

COMPARED TO US

It takes Pluto 248 years to orbit the sun. Its orbital plane is different from the other planets.

2,800 miles

Outer orbit planets

New

Horizons’ path

Pluto

Pluto’s orbit

Charon

17

1,400

miles

PLUTO’S MOONS

We are aware of five of them but there could be more.

P4

Nix

Pluto

Charon

P5

Hydra

Kuiper belt

HOW FAR IS PLUTO?

The United States was the first nation to reach every planet from Mercury to Neptune with a space probe. If New Horizons is successful, the US will have completed the initial reconnaissance of the solar system.

Consisting mainly of small bodies, or remnants from the solar system's formation, most are composed largely of frozen methane, ammonia, and water.

Pluto

Jupiter

Saturn

Uranus

Neptune

Earth

0

2

3

4

BILLIONS

OF MILES

1

OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

Pluto is a member of the outer orbiting planets. It is now considered a dwarf planet and orbits in the Kuiper belt.

INNER ORBIT PLANETS

OUTER ORBIT PLANETS

Jupiter

Saturn

SIZE OF PLANETS

COMPARED TO THE SUN

Venus

Mars

sun

Pluto

Mercury

Earth

Uranus

Neptune

Rocky terrestrial planets

Gas giants

Ice giants

Dwarf

planets

of the

Kuiper belt

HOW COLD?

0 F.

-50

-100

-150

-200

-250

-300

-350

-400

0

Your

freezer

-35

Coldest recorded temperature in Mass.

(Chester;

Jan. 12, 1981)

-90

Coldest inhabited place on Earth

(Verkhoyansk, Russia)

-136

Coldest recorded temperature on Earth

(Aug. 10, 2010;

East Antarctic Plateau)

-375 to -400

Pluto’s temperature

Pluto

Compared to other planets in our solar system, we know very little about Pluto. It is the largest object in the Kuiper belt, the 10th most massive known body directly orbiting the sun, and the second most massive known dwarf planet, after Eris. What is known before New Horizons’ visit:

Key developments after Pluto’s 1930 discovery

1992

Kuiper belt discovered

Jan. 2006

New Horizons probe launched

July 14, 2015

New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto

2005

Eris, an object larger than Pluto, is discovered

Aug. 2006

Pluto reclassified as a dwarf planet

Charon

A PLANET?

On Aug. 24, 2006, Pluto

was demoted from a planet by the International Astronomical Union. After discovering Eris in 2005, an object larger than Pluto, a debate ensued on what was considered a planet. IAU created a new definition that Pluto did not meet, and it was reclassified as a dwarf planet (or ice dwarf), a round object orbiting beyond Neptune.

Pluto

An artist’s rendering of what Pluto may look like based on recent New Horizons’ images.

BINARY PLANET

Pluto's largest moon, Charon, is half the size of Pluto. The pair form a binary planet, which means their gravitational balance point is between the two bodies.

It takes 6.4 Earth days for Pluto to make a complete orbit around the gravitational center.

Gravitational center

Pluto

Charon

UNIQUE ORBIT

It takes Pluto 248 years to orbit the sun. Its orbital plane is different from the other planets.

Outer orbit planets

New

Horizons’ path

Pluto’s orbit

17

COMPARED TO US

2,800 miles

Pluto

Charon

1,400 miles

PLUTO’S MOONS

We are aware of five of them but there could be more.

P4

Nix

Pluto

Charon

P5

Hydra

HOW COLD?

0

Your

freezer

-90

Coldest inhabited place on Earth

(Verkhoyansk, Russia)

0 F.

-50

-100

-150

-200

-250

-300

-350

-400

-35

Coldest recorded temperature in Mass.

(Chester;

Jan. 12, 1981)

-136

Coldest recorded temperature on Earth

(Aug. 10, 2010;

East Antarctic Plateau)

-375 to -400

Pluto’s temperature

Kuiper belt

Consisting mainly of small bodies, or remnants from the solar system's formation, most are composed largely of frozen methane, ammonia, and water.

HOW FAR IS PLUTO?

The United States was the first nation to reach every planet from Mercury to Neptune with a space probe. If New Horizons is successful, the US will have completed the initial reconnaissance of the solar system.

Earth

Saturn

Jupiter

Uranus

Neptune

Pluto

0

2

3

4

1

BILLIONS OF MILES

OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

Pluto is a member of the outer orbiting planets. It is now considered a dwarf planet and orbits in the Kuiper belt.

SIZE OF PLANETS

COMPARED TO THE SUN

Dwarf planets

of the

Kuiper belt

Pluto

Neptune

Ice

giants

Uranus

OUTER ORBIT PLANETS

Saturn

Gas

giants

Jupiter

Mars

Earth

Rocky

terrestrial

planets

INNER ORBIT PLANETS

Venus

Mercury

sun

Pluto

Compared to other planets in our solar system, we know very little about Pluto. It is the largest object in the Kuiper belt, the 10th most massive known body directly orbiting the sun, and the second most massive known dwarf planet, after Eris. What is known before New Horizons’ visit:

Key developments after Pluto’s 1930 discovery

1992

Kuiper belt discovered

2005

Eris, an object larger than Pluto, is discovered

Jan. 2006

New Horizons probe launched

Aug. 2006

Pluto reclassified as a dwarf planet

July 14, 2015

New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto

A PLANET?

On Aug. 24, 2006, Pluto

was demoted from a planet by the International Astronomical Union. After discovering Eris in 2005, an object larger than Pluto, a debate ensued on what was considered a planet. IAU created a new definition that Pluto did not meet, and it was reclassified as a dwarf planet (or ice dwarf), a round object orbiting beyond Neptune.

Charon

Pluto

An artist’s rendering of what Pluto may look like based on recent New Horizons’ images.

BINARY PLANET

Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is half the size of Pluto. The pair form a binary planet, which means their gravitational balance point is between the two bodies.

Gravitational center

Pluto

Charon

It takes 6.4 Earth days for Pluto to make a complete orbit around the gravitational center.

UNIQUE ORBIT

It takes Pluto 248 years to orbit the sun. Its orbital plane is different from the other planets.

New Horizons’ path

Outer orbit planets

Pluto’s orbit

17

COMPARED TO US

2,800 miles

Pluto

Charon

1,400 miles

PLUTO’S MOONS

We are aware of five of them but there could be more.

P4

Nix

Pluto

P5

Charon

Hydra

HOW COLD?

0

Your freezer

-35

Coldest recorded temperature in Mass. (Chester; Jan. 12, 1981)

0 F.

-50

-90

Coldest inhabited place on Earth (Verkhoyansk, Russia)

-100

-150

-136

Coldest recorded temperature on Earth (Aug. 10, 2010; East Antarctic Plateau)

-200

-250

-300

-350

-375 to -400

Pluto’s temperature

-400

HOW FAR IS PLUTO?

The United States was the first nation to reach every planet from Mercury to Neptune with a space probe. If New Horizons is successful, the US will have completed the initial reconnaissance of the solar system.

BILLIONS OF MILES

0

Earth

Jupiter

Saturn

1

Uranus

2

Neptune

3

Pluto

4

OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

Pluto is a member of the outer orbiting planets. It is now considered a dwarf planet and orbits in the Kuiper belt.

SIZE OF PLANETS

COMPARED TO THE SUN

Dwarf planets

of the Kuiper

belt

Pluto

Neptune

Ice

giants

Uranus

OUTER

ORBIT PLANETS

Saturn

Gas

giants

Jupiter

Mars

Earth

Rocky

terrestrial

planets

INNER

ORBIT PLANETS

Venus

Mercury

sun

Journey

Explorative spacecraft New Horizons homes in on Pluto after almost 10 years of flight. Loaded with more than 3 billion miles of calculated maneuvers, the mission serves to collect data and imagery of the dwarf planet and what lies beyond.

Earth

Jupiter

Pluto

Mercury

MILES

0

Sun

Venus

Jan. 19, 2006

 

Earth

New Horizons launched from

Cape Canaveral.

Mars

FEB. 28, 2007

 

Jupiter

Click to see how the spacecraft got a slingshot gravity boost.

Saturn

1 billion

Hibernation

The spacecraft spent about two-thirds of its flight time (1,873 days) asleep, reducing the risk of system failures and other problems.

Checking in

Periodically awakened

from its slumber each year, New Horizons underwent regular system checks, calibrations, and

data collections

several times.

Uranus

2 billion

Final wake-up call

The spacecraft emerged from hibernation four

months after crossing Neptune’s orbit.

Neptune

Calling home

Radio signals, which move at the speed of light, took nearly 4.5 hours to reach mission control from the spacecraft after it awakened.

3 billion

April 2015

Photos and measurements were collected about three months (65 million miles) before the closest approach.

Pluto

July 14, 2015

 

Click to see New Horizons’s trajectory as it passes within 6,200 miles of the frozen dwarf planet.

4 billion

BEYOND PLUTO

 

With NASA’s thumbs

up, New Horizons will receive directions to

target and map another

icy object of the Kuiper belt, scanning for moons and atmospheric conditions.

Journey

Explorative spacecraft New Horizons homes in on Pluto after almost 10 years of flight. Loaded with more than 3 billion miles of calculated maneuvers, the mission serves to collect data and imagery of the dwarf planet and what lies beyond.

Earth

Jupiter

Pluto

Mercury

MILES

0

Sun

Venus

Jan. 19, 2006

 

Earth

New Horizons launched from

Cape Canaveral.

Mars

FEB. 28, 2007

 

Jupiter

Tap to see how

the spacecraft

got a slingshot

gravity boost.

Saturn

1 billion

Hibernation

The spacecraft

spent about two- thirds of its flight

time (1,873 days) asleep, reducing

the risk of system failures and other problems.

Checking in

Periodically awakened from

its slumber each year, New Horizons underwent regular system checks, calibrations, and

data collections

several times.

Uranus

2 billion

Final wake-up call

The spacecraft emerged from hibernation

four months

after crossing Neptune’s

orbit.

Neptune

Calling home

Radio signals, which move at the speed

of light, took nearly 4.5 hours to reach mission control from the spacecraft after

it awakened.

3 billion

April 2015

Photos and measurements

were collected

about three months (65 million miles) before the closest approach.

Pluto

July 14, 2015

 

Tap to see New Horizons’s trajectory as it passes within 6,200 miles of

the frozen dwarf planet.

4 billion

BEYOND PLUTO

 

With NASA's thumbs up, New Horizons will receive directions to target and map another icy object of the Kuiper belt, scanning for moons and atmospheric conditions.

Earth

Jupiter

Journey

Pluto

Explorative spacecraft New Horizons homes in on Pluto after almost 10 years of flight. Loaded with more than 3 billion miles of calculated maneuvers, the mission serves to collect data and imagery of the dwarf planet and what lies beyond.

Mercury

MILES

0

Sun

Venus

Earth

Jan. 19, 2006

New Horizons launched

from Cape Canaveral.

Mars

FEB. 28, 2007

Tap to see how the spacecraft got a

slingshot gravity

boost from Jupiter.

Jupiter

Saturn

1 billion

Hibernation

The spacecraft spent about two-thirds of its flight time (1,873 days) asleep, reducing the risk of system failures and other problems.

Checking in

Periodically awakened from its slumber each year, New Horizons underwent regular system checks, calibrations, and

data collections several times.

Uranus

2 billion

Final wake-up call

The spacecraft emerged from hibernation

four months

after crossing Neptune’s orbit.

Calling home

Radio signals, which move at the speed of light, took nearly 4.5 hours to reach mission control from the spacecraft after

it awakened.

Neptune

3 billion

April 2015

Photos and measurements were collected about three months (65 million miles) before the closest approach.

Pluto

July 14, 2015

Tap to see New Horizons’s trajectory

as it passes within

6,200 miles of the frozen dwarf planet.

4 billion

BEYOND PLUTO

With NASA’s thumbs

up, New Horizons will receive directions

to target and map another icy object

of the Kuiper belt, scanning for moons

and atmospheric conditions.

Discovery

The New Horizons observatory will conduct science experiments over 3 billion miles away in our coldest, darkest space frontier. The sophisticated discovery tools NASA has sent to Pluto and what they will be used for:

PRIMARY MISSION

Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help us answer some basic questions about Pluto:

What does the surface look like?

What is the chemical composition of the surface?

What is the makeup of Pluto’s atmosphere?

A

B

C

New Horizons spacecraft,

science observatory

Charon

Science instruments, power source

New Horizons

to ground control

PEPSSI

REX

The round-trip transmission time between Earth and New Horizons is nine hours.

SWAP

Sending information at about 1,000 bits per second, it will take 16 months to send the full set of Pluto encounter science data back to Earth.

RTG

ALICE

LORRI

Pluto

RALPH

SDC

(below deck)

More than 14 years of power supply

RTG

Radioisotope Thermoelectric

Generator

The RTG allows the spacecraft to operate where light is so faint, solar power systems will not work. Heat generated by the decay of 24 pounds of plutonium-dioxide fuel is converted into electricity to drive science instruments that collectively need less power than a nightlight; excess heat is used to warm the spacecraft.

First experiment built, flown by students

SDC

Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter

It detects microscopic dust grains produced by collisions among asteroids, comets, and Kuiper belt objects. It will give scientists an unprecendented look at the sources and movement of dust in the solar system. The instrument is named after the 11-year-old who named Pluto after its discovery in 1930.

Gauging the composition of Pluto’s surface

REX

Radio Science EXperiment

A measurement, down to the surface, of Pluto’s atmospheric temperature, pressure, density will be obtained with REX. The distinctive bend of radio signals beamed from Earth-based antenna around the gases and atmospheric temperature near Pluto, Charon, or other objects will be monitered by REX.

Solar winds, Pluto’s atmosphere studied

SWAP

Solar Wind Around Pluto

Pluto’s gravity, about 1/16 of Earth’s, allows material to escape into space. Knowing the amount of Pluto’s atmosphere that escapes will provide critical insights into its structure and density. The rate of escape will be determined by measuring how solar wind interacts with escaping material.

The ‘eagle eyes’ of New Horizons

LORRI

LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager

A digital camera with a telephoto telescope, it is designed to produce high-resolution images on its approach to Pluto and during its closest encounter on July 14. With football-field-size resolution at closest approach, it will document the geological features of Pluto’s surface.

Electronics reveal unseen features, data

RALPH

 

This imager and spectrometer is charged with creating detailed maps that show what Pluto, its moons, and other Kupier belt objects look like. It measures visible and infrared light to develop color, composition, and thermal maps of the planet. It will also refine our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit and radii.

Probing the makeup of Pluto’s atmosphere

ALICE

This ultraviolet imaging spectrometer will determine the variety and abundance of chemicals in Pluto’s atmosphere giving a complete picture of its composition. It will also look for atmospheres around Charon and other Kuiper belt objects.

New Horizons forensic material finder

PEPSSI

Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation

Plasma, one of four fundamental states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) is the most abundant common matter found in the universe. PEPSSI will detect the identity of escaping materials that have broken down into ions and electrons (plasma) after having absorbed the sun’s ultraviolet light.

 

Discovery

The New Horizons observatory will conduct science experiments over 3 billion miles away in our coldest, darkest space frontier. The sophisticated discovery tools NASA has sent to Pluto and what they will be used for:

PRIMARY MISSION

Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help us answer some basic questions about Pluto:

What does the surface look like?

A

What is the chemical composition of the surface?

B

What is the makeup of Pluto’s atmosphere?

C

Charon

Pluto

New Horizons

to ground control

The round-trip transmission time between Earth and New Horizons is nine hours.

Sending information at about 1,000 bits per second, it will take 16 months to send the full set of Pluto encounter science data back to Earth.

New Horizons spacecraft,

science observatory

Science instruments, power source

PEPSSI

REX

SWAP

RTG

ALICE

LORRI

RALPH

SDC

(below deck)

More than 14 years of power supply

The RTG allows the spacecraft to operate where light is so faint, solar power systems will not work. Heat generated by the decay of 24 pounds of plutonium-dioxide fuel is converted into electricity to drive science instruments that collectively need less power than a nightlight; excess heat is used to warm the spacecraft.

RTG

Radioisotope Thermoelectric

Generator

Solar winds, Pluto’s atmosphere studied

Pluto’s gravity, about 1/16 of Earth’s, allows material to escape into space. Knowing the amount of Pluto’s atmosphere that escapes will provide critical insights into its structure and density. The rate of escape will be determined by measuring how solar wind interacts with escaping material.

SWAP

Solar Wind Around Pluto

First experiment built, flown by students

It detects microscopic dust grains produced by collisions among asteroids, comets, and Kuiper belt objects. It will give scientists an unprecendented look at the sources and movement of dust in the solar system. The instrument is named after the 11-year-old who named Pluto after its discovery in 1930.

SDC

Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter

Gauging the composition of Pluto’s surface

A measurement, down to the surface, of Pluto’s atmospheric temperature, pressure, density will be obtained with REX. The distinctive bend of radio signals beamed from Earth-based antenna around the gases and atmospheric temperature near Pluto, Charon, or other objects will be monitered by REX.

REX

Radio Science EXperiment

The ‘eagle eyes’ of New Horizons

A digital camera with a telephoto telescope, it is designed to produce high-resolution images on its approach to Pluto and during its closest encounter on July 14. With football-field-size resolution at closest approach, it will document the geological features of Pluto’s surface.

LORRI

LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager

Electronics reveal unseen features, data

This imager and spectrometer is charged with creating detailed maps that show what Pluto, its moons, and other Kupier belt objects look like. It measures visible and infrared light to develop color, composition, and thermal maps of the planet. It will also refine our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit and radii.

RALPH

 

Probing the makeup of Pluto’s atmosphere

This ultraviolet imaging spectrometer will determine the variety and abundance of chemicals in Pluto’s atmosphere giving a complete picture of its composition. It will also look for atmospheres around Charon and other Kuiper belt objects.

ALICE

New Horizons forensic material finder

Plasma, one of four fundamental states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) is the most abundant common matter found in the universe. PEPSSI will detect the identity of escaping materials that have broken down into ions and electrons (plasma) after having absorbed the sun’s ultraviolet light.

 

PEPSSI

Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation

Discovery

The New Horizons observatory will conduct science experiments over 3 billion miles away in our coldest, darkest space frontier. The sophisticated discovery tools NASA has sent to Pluto and what they will be used for:

Charon

Pluto

New Horizons spacecraft,

science observatory

Science instruments, power source

PRIMARY MISSION

Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help us answer some basic questions about Pluto:

What does the surface look like?

A

What is the chemical composition of the surface?

B

What is the makeup of Pluto’s atmosphere?

C

New Horizons

to ground control

The round-trip transmission time between Earth and New Horizons is nine hours.

Sending information at about 1,000 bits per second, it will take 16 months to send the full set of Pluto encounter science data back to Earth.

DISCOVERY TOOLS

More than 14 years of power supply

RTG

Radioisotope Thermoelectric

Generator

The RTG allows the spacecraft to operate where light is so faint, solar power systems will not work. Heat generated by the decay of 24 pounds of plutonium-dioxide fuel is converted into electricity to drive science instruments that collectively need less power than a nightlight; excess heat is used to warm the spacecraft.

Solar winds, Pluto’s atmosphere studied

SWAP

Solar Wind Around Pluto

Pluto’s gravity, about 1/16 of Earth’s, allows material to escape into space. Knowing the amount of Pluto’s atmosphere that escapes will provide critical insights into its structure and density. The rate of escape will be determined by measuring how solar wind interacts with escaping material.

Gauging the composition of Pluto’s surface

REX

Radio Science EXperiment LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager

A measurement, down to the surface, of Pluto’s atmospheric temperature, pressure, density will be obtained with REX. The distinctive bend of radio signals beamed from Earth-based antenna around the gases and atmospheric temperature near Pluto, Charon, or other objects will be monitered by REX.

First experiment built, flown by students

SDC

Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter

It detects microscopic dust grains produced by collisions among asteroids, comets, and Kuiper belt objects. It will give scientists an unprecendented look at the sources and movement of dust in the solar system. The instrument is named after the 11-year-old who named Pluto after its discovery in 1930.

The ‘eagle eyes’ of

New Horizons

LORRI

LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager

A digital camera with a telephoto telescope, it is designed to produce high-resolution images on its approach to Pluto and during its closest encounter on July 14. With football-field-size resolution at closest approach, it will document the geological features of Pluto’s surface.

Electronics reveal unseen features, data

RALPH

This imager and spectrometer is charged with creating detailed maps that show what Pluto, its moons, and other Kupier belt objects look like. It measures visible and infrared light to develop color, composition, and thermal maps of the planet. It will also refine our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit and radii.

Electronics reveal unseen features, data

RALPH

This imager and spectrometer is charged with creating detailed maps that show what Pluto, its moons, and other Kupier belt objects look like. It measures visible and infrared light to develop color, composition, and thermal maps of the planet. It will also refine our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit and radii.

Probing the makeup of Pluto’s atmosphere

ALICE

This ultraviolet imaging spectrometer will determine the variety and abundance of chemicals in Pluto’s atmosphere giving a complete picture of its composition. It will also look for atmospheres around Charon and other Kuiper belt objects.

New Horizons forensic material finder

PEPSSI

Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation

Plasma, one of four fundamental states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) is the most abundant common matter found in the universe. PEPSSI will detect the identity of escaping materials that have broken down into ions and electrons (plasma) after having absorbed the sun’s ultraviolet light.

 

SOURCES: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology; Sky and Telescope; US National Climate Data Center; Food and Drug Administration; Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

James Abundis, Kristi Walker / Globe Staff

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