[meteorite-list] Halfway Between Uranus and Neptune, New Horizons Cruises On
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2012 16:32:47 -0800 (PST)
Halfway Between Uranus and Neptune, New Horizons Cruises On
November 28, 2012
Today the Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft passed the halfway point
between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, zooming past another milepost
on its historic trek to the planetary frontier.
New Horizons, launched in January 2006 and set to visit the Pluto system
in July 2015, is the first spacecraft to cross this distant region since
NASA's Voyager probes in the late 1980s. New Horizons is now more than
25 astronomical units from Earth - one AU being the distance between the
Earth and sun, 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers. New Horizons
crossed the orbit of Uranus on March 18, 2011. It'll pass the orbit of
Neptune on Aug. 25, 2014 - exactly 25 years after Voyager 2 made its
historic exploration of that planet. The distance between the orbits of
the two gas giants is about a billion miles.
So far, New Horizons has traveled more than 2.3 billion miles since
launch. Pluto itself is a "mere" 711 million miles (1.14 billion
kilometers) away from the spacecraft - nearly eight times the distance
between Earth and the sun - and currently closer to New Horizons than
any other planet.
New Horizons remains healthy and on course toward Pluto and Kuiper Belt
beyond. Mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied
Physics Laboratory in Maryland received a "green" beacon transmission
from the craft on Nov. 26, indicating all systems were normal. The Solar
Wind Around Pluto (SWAP), Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science
Investigation (PEPSSI) and Student Dust Counter (SDC) instruments are
currently collecting data while most of New Horizons cruises in electronic
hibernation. "This continues to be an essentially textbook cruise to the
very frontier of our solar system," says New Horizons Principal Investigator
Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.
The New Horizons mission operations team will wake the craft in early
January for a quick systems checkout, which also includes uploading a
software update into New Horizons' main computer and downloading science
data from SWAP, PEPSSI and SDC.
Where is New Horizons?
Track the spacecraft from Earth to Pluto and beyond
Received on Wed 28 Nov 2012 07:32:47 PM PST