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[i]Got my longest distance Father's Day call ever today, New Horizons rang in from 3 billion miles away to say she's woken up from hibernation![/i]
[i]This summer's hibernation wakeup will be a particularly busy operation. In addition to the complete checkout of the spacecraft's primary and backup systems, and similar checkouts of all seven scientific instruments, we'll also conduct our first optical navigation campaign to home in on Pluto, track the spacecraft to refine its orbit, do a host of instrument calibrations needed before encounter, carry out a small but important course correction, and gather some cruise science.
A highlight of that cruise science will be imaging Pluto and its satellites to study their light curves (that is, how the brightness of each body varies as it rotates). This can be done from Earth, but New Horizons has the advantage of seeing Pluto and its moons from a different angle than can ever be observed from Earth or Earth orbit, providing some new information about the physical properties of the surfaces of these bodies. One outcome from these data, which will be taken in July, will be a rotation movie showing Charon orbiting Pluto - viewed from a distance about 10 times closer to the Pluto system than we are here on Earth.
Another milestone on our journey happens in late August, when we cross the orbit of Neptune. That event for New Horizons will occur on Aug. 25 - which by cosmic coincidence, not design - is the exact 25th anniversary of Voyager 2's closest approach to Neptune in 1989. After that, we'll be in "Pluto space!"[/i]
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