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Today’s cool image, on the right, is the last one New Horizons sent back to Earth before its July 14th close encounter. Be sure you click here to see the full resolution version. It is quite spectacular. It was taken from about 476,000 miles, about twice the distance to the Moon.
The quality of this image strongly suggests that all will go well with the encounter today. However,
Per the plan, the spacecraft currently is in data-gathering mode and not in contact with flight controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physical Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Scientists are waiting to find out whether New Horizons “phones home,” transmitting to Earth a series of status updates that indicate the spacecraft survived the flyby and is in good health. The “call” is expected shortly after 9 p.m. tonight.
So, at 9 pm (Eastern) we will hear from New Horizons on its status. Images and data from the encounter itself however will arrive over time, beginning tonight and continuing throughout the coming months.