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  New Horizons to Pluto: Viewing and comments (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   New Horizons to Pluto: Viewing and comments
Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-04-2005 08:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
New Horizons to Pluto: viewing, questions and comments
This thread is intended for comments and questions regarding the New Horizons mission and the updates published under the topic: NASA's New Horizons to Pluto.

New Horizons will cross the span of the solar system – in record time – and conduct flyby studies of Pluto and its moon, Charon, in 2015. The seven science instruments on the piano-sized probe will shed light on the bodies' surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres.

It will mark humankind's first voyage into the "third zone" of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt, populated by smaller, icy objects different than the rocky inner planets or the outer gas giants.

Ben
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posted 11-04-2005 08:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had the privilege to go inside the clean room at the PHSF today to photograph New Horizons, and I thought I would share my photos. Enjoy.

DavidH
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posted 12-21-2005 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SPACE.com:
The January liftoff of the New Horizons spacecraft bound for Pluto is toting a number of items, including a U.S. flag, as well as a compact disc containing more than 430,000 names.

But at a NASA New Horizons press briefing held December 19, mission officials played it coy in responding to a reporter's question to be a bit more specific on other objects that might be onboard. That information is to come after departure of the spacecraft.

One of those mystery items to be hauled to Pluto is a piece of SpaceShipOne, the pioneering suborbital rocket plane that made repeat trips to the edge of space in 2004. The milestone-making piloted vehicle is now part of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum collection on public display in Washington, D.C.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-21-2005 11:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another commemorative item on-board...
A Florida quarter is prepared for installation on the New Horizons spacecraft in Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. The new quarter, engraved with the "Gateway to Discovery" design, will accompany New Horizons on its 3-billion-mile journey to the planet Pluto and its moon, Charon. Although appropriate for the mission to carry the coin from the state that symbolizes space exploration, it will also serve a practical purpose: scientists are using the quarter as a spin-balance weight.

Robert Pearlman
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Yuri's Night release
New Horizons Mission to Begin Pluto Encounter April 12th, 2015 in Salute to Early Space Explorers

Yuri's Night is proud to announce that New Horizons, the NASA spacecraft currently en route to the ninth planet, Pluto, and the Kuiper Belt, will begin its final encounter with the Pluto system on April 12, 2015.

The year 2015 will be the 54th anniversary of the spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin, the first person to orbit the Earth and the 34th anniversary of the first Shuttle launch. Each April 12, Yuri's Night holds parties around the planet to commemorate these occasions. New Horizons mission PI Dr. Alan Stern will be present at the [URL=Yuri's Night Washington, D.C. party to talk more about the mission.

"We're proud to be working with Yuri's Night to excite people about the past, present, and future of space exploration," Stern said. "New Horizons is headed to the frontier of our solar system, 3 billion miles away. We hope that our collaboration with Yuri's Night will bring together space enthusiasts of all types to communicate to the public the importance of outer space."

New Horizons is a NASA New Frontiers mission managed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Launched on January 19, 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft is due to pass Jupiter on February 28, 2007, en route to photographing and examining Pluto and other objects in the Kuiper Belt. Currently traveling at over 51,000 miles per hour, New Horizons was the fastest spacecraft ever launched. Yet, it will require eight more years to reach planet Pluto, which will be more than 3 billion miles away from the Sun when New Horizons arrives. After its Pluto-system encounter, New Horizons will continue on to explore the Kuiper Belt, then escape the solar system and fly into interstellar space.

The first spacecraft to explore Pluto and its system of moons, New Horizons may also be the last for a while. As Pluto moves away from the Sun, its atmosphere will freeze and condense on its surface, making photography and other measurements difficult. Pluto will not be as close to the Sun as it is now for nearly another 250 years. New Horizons is carrying a compact disc with the names of more than 430,000 people from around the world who are interested in the project, the first-ever planetary flight experiment developed by undergraduate students, and the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.

About Yuri's Night
Yuri's Night is a program of the Space Generation, an organization dedicated to engaging and developing the next generation of leaders, using space to make a difference on Earth and sharing their passion for space with the public. Since 2001, each year Yuri's Night has held parties of all sizes in celebration of Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space. Parties of all sizes have been held on all seven continents, including Antarctica; this year's festivities currently involve 37 events in 10 countries and counting.

DChudwin
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posted 07-11-2012 09:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
New Horzon's PI Alan Stern reports that a fifth moon of Pluto has been discovered using images from the Hubble Space Telescope, giving an additional target for New Horizons and also raising concern about smaller debris which may be a hazard to the spacecraft as it approaches Pluto in 2015.

Philip
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posted 07-16-2013 09:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Two years to go, here's Ed Hengeveld's depiction of the Pluto-Charon flyby:

Philip
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posted 10-23-2013 08:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In January 2006 New Horizons was launched to examine PLuto (PL = Percival Lowell) and the KBO in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt. In February 2007 it goes a gravity assist of the planet Jupiter and in August 2014 it will pass the orbit of the planet Neptune.

Initiative to upload a message from mankind to the probe after its PLuto flyby.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-15-2014 10:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Alan Stern, New Horizons' principal investigator, shared the following update on Facebook:
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!
This was New Horizon's next-to-last hibernation before its flyby of Pluto. Stern wrote about what's next in his regular column on the mission's website:
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!"

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-14-2014 08:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NPR highlights that there is just one year (to the day) to New Horizons closest approach to Pluto.
Planetary scientist Alan Stern is counting down the days — just 365 of them now. He has spent the past 8 1/2 years waiting for the New Horizons spacecraft to make a close encounter with Pluto. Next year, on July 14, the spacecraft will reach its destination.

"Not only did we choose the date, by the way, we chose the hour and the minute. And we're on track," says Stern, the principal investigator for NASA's Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-24-2014 09:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
New Horizons has seen Pluto and Charon:
BEHOLD! Pluto and Charon (~17,000 km apart) seen Monday [July 23] by our LORRI camera. We're still over 400 million km away!

MCroft04
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The Geology Department of Colby College located in Waterville, Maine hosted Dr. Richard Binzel (MIT) on Friday. Richard is the co-investigator of the science team managing New Horizons. He gave an engaging talk on New Horizons to a packed house at the weekly geology seminar. He’s a wonderful speaker so if you get a chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend it.

This evening I joined Richard and his wife Michelle for dinner and was treated to many more stories of his work on New Horizons as well as his views on our present efforts in space exploration.

I really liked his bumper sticker; My Other Vehicle is on its way to Pluto. I made a pitch for an invitation to be in the room with him when the first image of Pluto arrives, but I don’t believe I made any headway. There’s a waiting list.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-05-2015 03:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are now less than 100 days (99 days, 15 hours and counting at the time of this post) until New Horizon's closest approach to Pluto on July 14.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-08-2015 10:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The White House release
We the Geeks: Journey to Pluto

In the farthest reaches of our solar system, nearly 3 billion miles away, lies the small, icy body that has inspired wonder for generations of astronomers since its discovery 85 years ago. Pluto, a dwarf planet, is so far away that it takes nearly 250 years to orbit the Sun. This summer, we will come to know Pluto in infinitely more detail than ever before.

NASA's New Horizons mission launched into space in 2006 and has been en route to Pluto for nine years. In July 2015, it will reach its destination, billions of miles away, for the first-ever close view of the dwarf planet and its moons. New Horizons will use an array of instruments to take pictures and answer basic questions about the temperature and composition of Pluto's atmosphere, its surface and geology, and how it interacts with the constant stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun.

Looking ahead to this exciting close encounter, the White House hosted "We the Geeks: Journey to Pluto" on April 9. They talked to experts from NASA's New Horizons team to learn about the mission and the exciting discoveries scientists hope to make about Pluto.

The panel of experts included:

  • John Grunsfeld, astronaut, NASA's Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate
  • Hal Weaver, Project Scientist for New Horizons
  • Jamey Szalay, David James, and Tiffany Finley, current and former members of the New Horizons Student Dust Counter instrument team
  • Gabe Rogers, New Horizons Guidance and Control Engineer

Robert Pearlman
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NASA released today the first color photo of Pluto and Charon, as captured by New Horizons from a distance of about 71 million miles (roughly the distance from the Sun to Venus).

The New Horizons team also today detailed when imagery will be delivered to Earth. The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla has an excellent overview and schedule of imagery transmissions here.

On Sunday, July 12, New Horizons will transmit the last of its optical navigation data. These images will have lower resolution than the images we have already received from Dawn at Ceres. Then, on Sunday and Monday, July 12 and 13, there will be a series of four "Fail Safe" downlinks. These are designed to return a minimum set of data from all instruments, just in case New Horizons does not survive the flyby. A last downlink ending overnight Monday July 13, called "E-Health 1," will include one last pre-closest approach photo of Pluto.

Then there is a nail-biting 24-hour period of waiting while New Horizons concentrates on flyby science and does not communicate with Earth, followed by the much-anticipated beep of the "Phone Home" downlink on Tuesday night, July 14. Following closest approach, on Wednesday and Thursday, July 15 and 16, there will be a series of "First Look" downlinks containing a sampling of key science data. Another batch of data will arrive in the "Early High Priority" downlinks over the subsequent weekend, July 17-20. Then there will be a hiatus of 8 weeks before New Horizons turns to systematically downlinking all its data.

...for nearly two months, until September 14, New Horizons will switch to near-real-time downlinking of data from instruments that generate low data volumes (like SWAP and PEPSSI) while it transmits just housekeeping information for all of the rest of the data. No new images will arrive on the ground during this time.

On September 14, New Horizons will begin downlinking a "browse" version of the entire Pluto data set, in which all images will be lossily compressed. It will take about 10 weeks to get that data set to the ground. There will be compression artifacts, but we'll see the entire data set. Then, around November 16, New Horizons will begin to downlink the entire science data set losslessly compressed. It will take a year to complete that process.

The raw images received won't be posted to the web directly, but team members promised that imagery would be made available as fast as possible after they have had a chance to look at the data.

Blackarrow
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posted 04-14-2015 08:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a far cry from the near-instantaneous availability of images of Neptune taken by the 1970s-designed Voyager 2 in 1989.

Still, that's progress for you!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-14-2015 09:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Voyager 2 and New Horizons were/are constrained by the amount of data they could/can record onboard. Voyager was equipped with a tape recorder; New Horizons has solid state memory.

For Voyager 2's encounter with Neptune, NASA coupled the Deep Space Network with the Parkes radio observatory and the 27 25-meter dishes at the NRAO's Very Large Array.

As Emily Lakdawalla describes here, New Horizons' signal can only be detected by the DSN's 70-meter dishes, but can cache much more data than Voyager to transmit over time. As such...

...it takes 42 minutes to return one LORRI photo to Earth. Most communications sessions last about eight hours. That's eleven images per communications session. And that assumes that New Horizons is transmitting only LORRI data, which it's not; there are other science instruments and spacecraft housekeeping data, too. The Deep Space Network has only three 70-meter dishes, and there is a lot of competition for time on them; New Horizons is lucky to get one communications session per day. And while New Horizons is pointing its dish at Earth, it can't point at anything else, including Pluto. It has to choose between communicating and taking data.

Blackarrow
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posted 04-15-2015 04:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I stand by what I previously posted. 26 years ago I attended a special event at Armagh Planetarium and watched a stream of incredible images coming through from Neptune. In 2015 I was going to take a day off work to watch a stream of images from Pluto via CNN, Sky News, BBC and NASA TV. Clearly, I would be wasting my time.

I wonder whether we will see the best New Horizon images before or after we see close-ups of Ceres...or after we FINALLY see fully-enhanced Philae landing-site images.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-12-2015 09:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA video release
The Year of Pluto

New Horizons Documentary Brings Humanity Closer to the Edge of the Solar System

New Horizons is the first mission to the Kuiper Belt, a gigantic zone of icy bodies and mysterious small objects orbiting beyond Neptune. This region also is known as the "third" zone of our solar system, beyond the inner rocky planets and outer gas giants. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland, designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

The Year of Pluto - NASA New Horizons is a one hour documentary which takes on the hard science and gives us answers to how the mission came about and why it matters. Interviews with Dr. James Green, John Spencer, Fran Bagenal, Mark Showalter and others share how New Horizons will answer many questions.

New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

alcyone
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posted 06-12-2015 11:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alcyone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
I wonder whether we will see the best New Horizon images...
Almost every day new images of the Pluto system from the LORRI camera on the New Horizons spacecraft are posted here. Also, now that New Horizons is on Pluto's doorstep, NASA is ramping up the coverage.

This will be just as exciting as Voyager at Neptune/Triton, make no mistake.

Glint
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posted 06-12-2015 01:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Patience will be required. During the passage it is the cameras that will be pointing toward Pluto and her moons. The main antenna will not be pointing at earth. And then there is the download rate of some 2 kbps. So the images will trickle out for weeks and months after the flyby.

The bottom line is don't expect a blitz of high quality images in the hours or days after the encounter. But just be patient because it will be worth it.

bwhite1976
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posted 06-12-2015 08:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bwhite1976   Click Here to Email bwhite1976     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think most of the data from the flyby won't even be downlinked from New Horizons until September. A very small percentage of the data will be downlinked right away. I imagine those images released around or right after the flyby are going to be spectacular.

Blackarrow
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posted 06-13-2015 02:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by alcyone:
This will be just as exciting as Voyager at Neptune/Triton, make no mistake.
Just not as quickly shared. 1970s technology rules!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-13-2015 02:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sure, except for the imagery and science data collection instruments...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-17-2015 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
National Space Society video release
New Horizons

On July 14th, NASA's New Horizons mission will make its closest approach to the Pluto system, completing the first reconnaissance of the solar system's major planets, begun over 50 years ago by NASA. With the completion of the Pluto flyby by New Horizons next month, NASA will have completed successful missions to every planet from Mercury to Pluto.

The NSS recognizes the historic culmination of this era of first planetary reconnaissance, for which the United States will be forever inscribed in history.

To celebrate, the NSS commissioned a short video film, called "New Horizons," which is being released today. "New Horizons" was directed and produced by Erik Wernquist, whose video "Wanderers," looking to the future of solar system exploration by humans, created a viral sensation last year. NSS member and New Horizons mission leader Alan Stern served as advisor the video. The video was funded for NSS by contributions to NSS made by New Horizons mission partners Aerojet Rockedyne, Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, and United Launch Alliance.

Blackarrow
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posted 06-17-2015 05:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Sure, except for the imagery and science data collection instruments...
This comes uncomfortably close to insulting the results of some of NASA's greatest planetary missions. The point I have been making is that, whatever the reasons, today's technology seems incapable of providing instant results to the public. Whether it is ESA's failure to provide prompt access to Rosetta/Philae images, or NASA's failure to provide prompt access to Dawn's images of Ceres, or New Horizons' images of Pluto, it all compares very unfavourably with planetary exploration in the 1970s. There's always a reason, an excuse, a justification, an explanation. They didn't need those with Viking, Voyager, Mariner 10, and many others. They just produced the images for the public to see. The supreme irony is that in an era of instant communications and ultra high definition, we have to wait an age to see the results from today's missions.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-17-2015 07:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the 1970s and 1980s, you didn't have instant access to the images — you had access to whatever was shown on TV. It still took much longer (compared to today, even with technical and policy delays) for the public to get a hold of the actual image data, and for the majority of the population, they really didn't ever have easy access to the images once the broadcast ended. They only had what the press chose to print in newspapers and magazines.

onesmallstep
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posted 06-18-2015 08:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think we live today with an embarrassment of riches: sophisticated spacecraft with advanced imaging/sensing equipment flying by unexplored worlds. If it will take a little while for images — even what would be considered the 'best' images — to be released, so be it. You have to take into account these are scientific missions of exploration, not PR photo ops. Of course, NASA showing off their achievements paid for by taxpayer dollars does no harm.

Engineers and scientists have to review the images, compress or crop them etc. and then perhaps make a preliminary description of what they contain based on the data that is coming in. I find it hard to believe it was better in the 70s and 80s — even with the Voyager, Pioneer and Mariner missions — as far as image release was concerned. Today you can download information or a color picture directly from a PC or view it almost instantaneously on a mobile device. At least it is made available to a wider audience, anywhere. That is all to the good.

bwhite1976
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posted 06-18-2015 01:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bwhite1976   Click Here to Email bwhite1976     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The images from New Horizons are posted on this NASA website within 48 hours of downlink from New Horizons.

There are currently 16 pages of raw images on this website. Probably 100 images on each page.

Blackarrow
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posted 06-18-2015 07:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by onesmallstep:
I find it hard to believe it was better in the 70s and 80s — even with the Voyager, Pioneer and Mariner missions — as far as image release was concerned.

For some of us it is not a matter of belief. We remember it. True, we didn't have news sources like CNN or the internet, but the images were immediately available to the news media to show on regular news broadcasts. Voyager 2 flying by Neptune was a big news story (helped by the fact that Neptune looked quite Earth-like) and the encounter images were available for the public as soon as NASA acquired them. Obviously, cleaned up computer-enhanced versions took longer, but the raw images of Neptune were good enough to let the public participate in the encounter in a real and memorable way. I quote from JPL's "Voyager Bulletin" No. 93 (dated 2 days after the Neptune encounter):

"In an historic flyby witnessed by millions of people around the world, thanks to live TV broadcasts of incoming images, Voyager 2 sent back extraordinary pictures of storms in Neptune's atmosphere, cloud shadows, six new moons, several new rings, and icy Triton."

I still have VHS recordings (now on DVD) of TV news broadcasts showing a stream of raw Voyager images appearing on monitor screens. Even the unenhanced raw images showed dramatic views which captured the imagination of the public

Sadly, it seems unlikely that the Pluto encounter will have the same sense of immediacy or the same sense of public participation, in spite of 24-hour news channels and the internet. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I will be.

onesmallstep
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posted 06-19-2015 10:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember those days well, in fact I eagerly collected the (now yellowed) newspaper articles and 'hard copy' press releases and lithos sent to me via snail mail. What I was trying to point out is, you can't really compare one era of news coverage with another and expect it to be the same. And more importantly, the level of interest and fascination with space science has changed.

Perhaps living in a more tech-savvy, future-forward society makes some people a bit more jaded and less oooh and aaah with every bit of space news - no matter how fast that photo of an asteroid or dwarf planet comes in over the digital newswire.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-19-2015 05:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
New Horizons' first color images of Pluto were released today.

As for the flyby, sense of immediacy and public interest, it should be noted that there was tremendous public engagement when NEAR descended to the surface of Eros, even though there was no accompanying imagery. The intrigue was based on whether the probe would survive or not.

The same I suspect, will be true on July 14 at about 9:02 p.m. EDT. That's when New Horizons signal will be received on Earth, confirming it survived the flyby. Given the risk of undetected debris in the Pluto system, the probe's survival is not a given.

Blackarrow
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posted 07-01-2015 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why is Pluto's moon called "Kerberos" rather than "Cerberus"? A Google search confirms my own memory that "Cerberus" was the three-headed dog which guarded the entrance to the Underworld. Entirely suitable for Pluto, god of the Underworld. As for "Kerberos," the only definition I find is of a computer language protocol.

I'm not sure whether an answer to this question requires expertise in Greek mythology; astronomy; or computer science (or perhaps all three?).

Cozmosis22
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posted 07-01-2015 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Perhaps the spelling with a "K" is to avoid any possible connection to the huge Wall Street investment firm?

These new images are fascinating and will be watching New Horizons' progress during the next few weeks.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-01-2015 09:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To quote the International Astronomical Union (IAU):
After a final deliberation, the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature and the IAU Committee on Small Body Nomenclature, in charge of naming dwarf planets and their systems, agreed to change Cerberus to Kerberos — the Greek spelling of the word, to avoid confusion with an asteroid called 1865 Cerberus. According to mythology, Cerberus — or Kerberos in Greek — was a many-headed dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld.

Glint
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posted 07-02-2015 11:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A recent posting in the companion thread mentioned "a series of intriguing spots along the equator that are evenly spaced." Each is said to be "about 300 miles (480 kilometers) in diameter."

My speculation is that they are impact sites from former moons whose orbits decayed.

AstronautBrian
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posted 07-02-2015 09:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AstronautBrian   Click Here to Email AstronautBrian     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is all very exciting... getting the first good glimpse of a world never seen in detail before. First Ceres and now Pluto... it's been a good year!

Headshot
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posted 07-03-2015 09:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I find it interesting to note that New Horizons will make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015 almost exactly 50 years after Mariner IV made its closest approach to Mars on July 15, 1965. I believe the differential is only 10 hours. Mariner IV returned the first images, taken by a spacecraft, of another planet.

Blackarrow
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posted 07-04-2015 05:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have previously expressed disappointment at the likely pace of data release to the public when New Horizons reaches Pluto. There are actually two issues: first, the excitement generated by a steady release of images showing Pluto becoming larger and clearer as each day passes and the distance shrinks. No complaint here: the daily release of LORRI images is providing that excitement, particularly the latest colour images. A new and largely unknown world is giving up its secrets before our very eyes.

Second, the release of information on encounter day and beyond. This will be a long and painfully slow business. I'm still not sure why. A few comparisons between Voyager 2 in 1989 and New Horizons in 2015

  • Transmission time from Neptune in August 1989: 4 hours, 6 minutes
  • Transmission time from Pluto in July, 2015: 4 hours, 25 minutes
  • Voyager 2 transmitter: 25 watts
  • New Horizons: 12 watts
  • Transmission data rate from Neptune: 21.6 kilobits per second
  • Transmission data from Pluto: 2 kilobits per second.
(As an aside, the planned data rate by Galileo in orbit around Jupiter was 15 kbs, but with only the low-gain antenna the rate would have been 10 bits per second. This was improved to 1 kbs by data compression and upgrades of the Deep Space Network on Earth.)

My technological knowledge is too limited to understand why the data transmission rate from Pluto is so low. Yes, it's a long way to Pluto, but not that much more than the Earth-Neptune distance in 1989 (I estimate an extra 212 million miles). Can someone explain why the transmission rate of an aging 1970s spaceprobe in 1989 was eleven times faster than the transmission rate of a much more sophisticated 21st century spacecraft in 2015, bearing in mind NASA has had a quarter of a century to improve data-transmission and reception? Is it as simple as available funding? Or am I missing something?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-04-2015 05:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
My technological knowledge is too limited to understand why the data transmission rate from Pluto is so low.
As was noted earlier in the thread, data transmission rates rely on signal strength and the capability on Earth to receive the signal.

To boost Voyager's transmission rate, NASA augmented the Deep Space Network's 70-meter antenna with two 34-meter and 27 25-meter antennas. That setup was necessary because Voyager had to transmit all of its data in real time. Its onboard storage was limited to a tape recorder.

(As an aside, one limitation of Voyager's real-time transmission was that it could not return the data needed for high-resolution color mosaics of Neptune.)

New Horizons has onboard solid state memory to record data, enabling it to collect and return more data. Voyager's images were 800 pixels square; New Horizons LORRI detector is 1024 pixels square.

New Horizons can almost double its transmission rate by using its two Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTAs) to boost its signal strength, but the power requirements to do so require shutting down science instruments. The mission team will make this trade off to clear the data buffer before the flyby to make sure the spacecraft can record as much information as possible.

One last note, New Horizons can only point its dish in one direction at a time: it can only collect data about Pluto or transmit the data back to Earth, not both. And so throughout the flyby, the New Horizons' dish will be focused at Pluto to maximize data collection.

I have posted this before, but for a much better explanation of New Horizons' data transmission rates, please read Emily Lakdawalla's essay, Talking to Pluto is hard! Why it takes so long to get data back from New Horizons.


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