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The Fastest Moving Artificial Object In History - On A Journey To Pluto

New Horizons orbiting Jupiter

It's a long way out to Pluto. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, the fastest-moving artificial object in history, will arrive there nine years after its launch, coasting by the distant world in the summer of 2015. But its speedy voyage would have taken four more years had it not been for a gravity slingshot afforded by Jupiter.

New Horizons' close fly-by past the king of worlds took place on 28 February 2007. The encounter served as far more than a practice run for the upcoming Pluto arrival. Jupiter is a prime candidate for planetary exploration, a window into the early solar nebula. Its weather patterns have lent insight into fluid dynamics, meteorology and theory. Its retinue of 63 moons - including the quartet of giant Galilean Satellites - provides a miniature solar system for study. Several of the Galilean are the size of planets and have surfaces of ice, as does Pluto and its moon Charon.

New Horizons' use of Jupiter's gravity to get to Pluto presented a valuable chance to study Jupiter in new ways. So far, seven spacecraft in total have visited Jupiter, but New Horizons is equipped with scientific instruments that have never before been flown close to the giant planet. In addition to imaging in visible wavelengths, the Pluto explorer can peer at objects in portions of the spectrum not revealed by earlier spacecraft. New Horizons was also able to take movies of phenomena that the earlier Galileo orbiter could not.

The New Horizons encounter was close than any previous fly-by. For example, New Horizons flew three to four times closer to Jupiter than Cassini did on its way to Saturn in 2000.

But, the encounter was not easy to pull off. The first year of flight was a busy one for the Pluto-bound robot. Engineers and scientists deployed and checked instruments. They made vital trajectory corrections to establish an accurate path for the long flight. They used various stars to calibrate the delicate sensors on the craft. In the midst of all the mayhem, scientists had to plan a complex, Jupiter fly-by only sketched out in preliminary plans.

Complicating the encounter was the fact that New Horizons' instruments were designed for a different environment. Sunlight at Jupiter is some 700 times as strong as that at Pluto. Instruments keyed to imaging in low light levels were prone to be overwhelmed by the bright Jovian environment. One strategy the team devised was to target the most important sights on Jupiter when they were at the terminator, the day/night boundary of the planet. Another significant difference between the Jupiter and Pluto encounters is the time available to the spacecraft during the two fly-bys.

Click here and here to read more about New Horizons' project.


kawasaki san said...

New Horizons mmg mengkagumkan aku. byk penemuan2 terbaru direkodkan semenjak perjalannya bermula secara rasmi di angkasa lepas. dan apa yg pasti, akan ada lebih byk penemuan bakal dilakukan sebelum New Horizons sampai di Pluto pd 2015 nt

fahmi payas said...

kiranya cassini tercabar la dgn new horizons ni kan.
for sure saturn ring pun blh dicapture dgn resolusi yg lbh jelas.

ateh said...

yeap mr.fahmi payas

tp bukanlah tercabar. cassini juga beri sumbangan besar ttg saturn dan gegelangnya.
New Horizons mmg ada mengorbit Saturn, dan telah merakam imej G-Ring dgn lbh jelas.

Sistem kamera & lens New Horizons lbh canggih berbanding Cassini. resolusinya jauh lebih tinggi.

ateh said...

mr.kawasaki san

yeap, mmg telah byk penemuan baru yg dijumpai di angkasa lepas oleh New Horizons. Pemahaman manusia ttg planet Jupiter juga lebuh menyeluruh dan lengkap.

lg satu yg menarik, laluan New Horizons belum pernah dilalui oleh mana2 kapal penjelajah angkasa yg lain. so, peluang utk menemui benda baru mmg agak besar.