Pluto just before close encounter

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Pluto just before close encounter

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.


  • Steve Miller

    Looking forward to fascinating pictures over the next couple months. Since New Horizons is done with photographing Pluto, I wonder if it could look back at the inter solar system and capture the sun and gas giants. I suppose Earth would be very faint from so far away. It would be a neat picture.

  • mpthompson

    Voyager took such a picture 25 years ago from outside Pluto’s orbit.

    I wonder if the optics of New Horizons could get a better picture.

    BTW, are Pioneer 10/11, Voyager 1/2 and now New Horizons the only spacecraft on interstellar trajectories?

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