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Astronomy

New Horizons mission to Pluto

New Horizons approaching Pluto and CharonNew Horizons approaching Pluto and Charon Nine years after it left Earth, NASA’s New Horizons space probe became, on Tuesday 14th July 2015, the first spacecraft to reach the dwarf planet Pluto. It took detailed images and recorded measurements of the icy world as it zoomed past at 14 kilometres per second (30,000 mph). Having journeyed through space for nearly five billion kilometres, New Horizons came within 12,500 kilometres (7800 miles) of Pluto. Because Pluto is so distant, radio signals from the space probe take more than four hours to reach mission controllers on Earth. The first signals arrived at 2 a.m. BST on the morning of Wednesday 15th July 2015.


Ice flows in Sputnik PlanumIce flows in Sputnik Planum

Pluto is the largest known object in the Kuiper Belt, the outer region of the Solar System that is home to comets and more than 100,000 tiny, icy worlds. Pluto has at least five moons of its own. The largest, Charon, is half its size. It is so massive that Pluto and Charon orbit around each other, like spinning dancers. The other moons are Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra.

The New Horizons space probe was the first spacecraft ever to reach Pluto.

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