New Horizons Phones Home, Science Data To Come Beginning Tomorrow

New Horizons Phones Home, Science Data To Come Beginning Tomorrow

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft restored contact with Earth just as planned tonight, sending an “all’s well” signal at 8:52:37 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

New Horizons is the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moons after a nine-and-a-half year journey that culminated in a close flyby about 7,750 miles above Pluto’s surface at 7:50 am EDT this morning.  The spacecraft was busy collecting science data for several hours and, coupled with the 4.5 hour one-way signal travel time from Pluto to Earth, the signal arrived this evening.

The spacecraft had sent a great deal of data — including tantalizing images —  before the closest approach sequence began, but the highly prized close approach data will start streaming back to Earth in a few hours.  The next signal acquisition will be at 5:50 am EDT tomorrow morning (July 15) and last several hours.  That is just the beginning though — it will take 16 months to get all the data back.  The maximum data rate is 4 kilobits/second.

NASA has processed imagery acquired before the closest approach in “false color” to highlight differences in surface material and features on Pluto and its moon  Charon.   

Pluto and its moon Charon in false color imagery to highlight differences in surface materials and features.
Distance between the two objects was reduced for side-by-side comparison.
Photo credit:  NASA

The false color image shows, among other things, that the heart-shaped feature observed in an earlier image is composed of different materials on the western and eastern sides.   What it all means requires further analysis.

Another NASA briefing is scheduled for 3:00 pm EDT tomorrow.  Check back here for updates.

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