NASA’s New Horizons, the spacecraft launched by NASA for an expedition to Pluto has finally sent the closest photo ever taken by a spacecraft. New Horizons took this photo about, which NASA says it was taken at about 11pm yesterday “before the moment of closest approach”. At the time it was apparently only 7,750 miles (12,400 kilometers) above the surface of the planet. They properly hyped the impending approach on Twitter via their official account and all of its progress via the official Twitter account for the spacecraft.
They announced the event on Twitter & Instagram and the posts generated a lot of interest
— NASA New Horizons (@NASANewHorizons) July 14, 2015
Gorgeous Pluto! The dwarf planet has sent a love note back to Earth via our New Horizons spacecraft, which has traveled more than 9 years and 3+ billion miles. This is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach, which was at 7:49 a.m. EDT Tuesday – about 7,750 miles above the surface — roughly the same distance from New York to Mumbai, India – making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth. This stunning image of the dwarf planet was captured from New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach. The spacecraft was 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) from the surface. Images from closest approach are expected to be released on Wednesday, July 15. Image Credit: NASA #nasa #pluto #plutoflyby #newhorizons#solarsystem #nasabeyond #science
A photo posted by NASA (@nasa) on
This is a historic moment for interstellar exploration since it marks the moment in NASA’s history where each planet in the solar system has been visited by at least one of their probes. The probe has been travelling to Pluto for the last 9 years at a speed of 30,000mph (48,000kph) on a journey that was 3 billion miles away (4.8 billion kilometers away) which is a staggering distance in Earth terms.
According to NASA, “once New Horizon re-establishes contact on Tuesday, it will take 16 months for it send all its data (10 years’ worth) back to Earth”. To get a grasp of the incredible precision it took to guide the spacecraft, NASA said it had to thread it through a 60 by 90 kilometer window in space which was equivalent of a plane arriving at its target where it shouldn’t be off by a width of a tennis ball.
The purpose of the expedition to Pluto was to “better understand the origins of the solar system” and for many people, including NASA, it also gave a very good glimpse of Pluto thanks to the high resolution pictures that were received.
Google celebrated his historic moment by outing a Google Doodle with Pluto as one of the O’s and a New Horizons animation of it orbiting the planet.
Social media has reacted positively from the new development and some posts like this Vine that mocks Pluto where it is depicted as a sad planet that finally sees something foreign in a while (New Horizons) only for it to breeze by.
On Twitter, there is this conspicuous heart shaped formation on its surface which was noticed by NASA and later by by certain accounts.
— NASA (@NASA) July 14, 2015
— 3M (@3M) July 14, 2015
when are we going to start talking about the giant heart on Pluto <3 <3 <3 pic.twitter.com/sj7oXzsdir
— Loryn Brantz (@LorynBrantz) July 14, 2015
What a time to be alive! Live updates from NASA about a spacecraft’s mission on social media. Right now for those people interested in astronomy and related fields, social media has become a useful tool for getting information about space exploration and all the spacecrafts that will be involved. Who knows? Next time you’ll see spacecraft uploading selfies of them against space objects on social media.