Pluto Gets Its Close-up


Pluto finally got a visitor from Earth, 85 years after the dwarf planet’s discovery by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Completing a nine-year, 3-billion-mile voyage, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft reached the former ninth planet of our solar system on Tuesday.

The visit marks the first time clear images of Pluto will be seen by human eyes. Up until last year, the Alaska-sized dwarf planet appeared only as a fuzzy blur even in the most powerful of telescopes.

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We discuss the milestone flyby with astronomers Mark Hammergren and Lucianne Walkowicz from the Adler Planetarium who'll tell us what the photos and scientific instruments aboard New Horizons are already uncovering about our very distant neighbor and its five known moons.

  • NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft roars into the sky aboard an Atlas V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 19, 2006. (Courtesy of NASA)

    NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft roars into the sky aboard an Atlas V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 19, 2006. (Courtesy of NASA)

  • Team members took a break from the New Horizons Science Team meeting in January 2009 to mark the third anniversary of New Horizons' launch. (Courtesy JHUAPL/Southwest Research Institute)

    Team members took a break from the New Horizons Science Team meeting in January 2009 to mark the third anniversary of New Horizons' launch. (Courtesy JHUAPL/Southwest Research Institute)

  • An image of Pluto taken aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 13, 2015. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

    An image of Pluto taken aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 13, 2015. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

  • Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft. (Courtesy Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

    Artist’s concept of the New Horizons spacecraft. (Courtesy Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)


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