Ready For Its Closeup: Pluto Flyby Will Happen In Less Than A Week
Pluto deserves this. It was terribly dissed as a planet -- downgraded to dwarf in 2009 by elite astronomers. It's never been photographed clearly, only being seen in blurry, grainy images -- the Sasquatch of the Solar System. And it shares a name with a cartoon dog -- and not even a talking one.
Now, Pluto is in the spotlight. A chapter in planetary exploration will close next week, as NASA's New Horizons spacecraft finally gets its flyby of the tiny icy orb, the most distant and reclusive planet in our solar system.
The flyby occurs July 14, at about 7:50 a.m. (ET), as New Horizons passes within 7,800 miles of the surface of Pluto. To put that in perspective, if New Horizons was 7,800 miles from Earth, it could get clear photos of the ponds in New York's Central Park.
I once showed Pluto to Pluto. He looked delighted. Or maybe that’s his reaction to everything. pic.twitter.com/mhLZ5t7LoN
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 8, 2015
Right now New Horizons is about 6 million miles away from Pluto (our moon is only 238,900 miles from Earth). And it's still taking blurry photos -- but better than any to date.
— Alex Parker (@Alex_Parker) July 8, 2015
— NASA (@NASA) July 8, 2015
There's no live stream of the flyby, obviously, because there's a four-hour lag time in communication from the spacecraft to Earth, and then NASA needs time to process the data. But you can keep tabs on what's going on beginning today on NASA TV, where the first images will also be broadcast.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) July 7, 2015
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