Pluto Fly-By: Reaching New Horizons
On Tuesday, July 14th just before 7:00 a.m. central time, the New Horizons space probe will fly by Pluto.
“It’s going to take a couple hours to go through the Pluto system, then turn its antenna back toward earth and ‘phone home’” said David Leake, the head of Parkland College's Staerkel Planetarium. Given the time required for the images to reach Earth, about 5 hours, NASA will begin receiving information from the craft at about 8:00 p.m. he says.
This fly-by has been a long time in the making. NASA was granted approval for the mission back in 2001, but the New Horizons craft wasn’t able to take flight until January 19, 2006 – shortly before Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status.This event comes eighty-five years after Pluto was discovered by an astronomer from Illinois named Clyde Tombaugh. Tombaugh, originally from Streator, Illinois, was a young researcher at the Lowell Observatory when he discovered Pluto.
The mission is about more than Pluto he says. “This is really a different area of the solar system and that’s sort of the main thing,” said Leake. “That’s why the mission is called New Horizons – there’s this whole different area.”
You can find more on the Parkland Staerkel Planetarium’s events here.
The planetarium will project the Pluto news conference live on the dome in addition to activities in the lobby. The event is free and runs from 6:00 - 8:30 p.m. They will include any new images of Pluto and its moons from the New Horizons spacecraft in both "Prairie Skies" and their New Horizons show beginning on July 17.