Features Thursday, February 05, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | February 5, 2015 | 7:50 am IST NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sent back its first new images of Pluto on Wednesday, as the probe closes in on the dwarf planet. Although still just a dot along with its largest moon, Charon, the images come on the 109th birthday of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the distant icy world in 1930. New Horizons was more than 126 million miles (nearly 203 million kilometers) away from Pluto when it began taking images.  The New Horizons spacecraft which is planning to reach by July, 2015. began capturing long-range images of the Pluto system on January 25th that will give scientists a better look at Pluto's moons and help them navigate the spacecraft, the rest of the way. In addition to Pluto and its many moons, New Horizons will explore the "Kuiper Belt" - an unexplored asteroid-rich region of our solar system that might have thousands of small, icy, rocky planets similar to Pluto. Read - Nine items that are on the New Horizons spacecraft on its way to Pluto If the spacecraft is still up and running in the year 2038, New Horizons will be around 100 AU (astronomical units) from the sun - a little before interstellar space, and might be able to send data to help us better understand the sun's outer heliosphere. Closing in on Pluto at about 31,000 mph, New Horizons already has covered more than 3 billion miles since it launched on Jan. 19, 2006. Its journey has taken it past each planet’s orbit, from Mars to Neptune, in record time, and it is now in the first stage of an encounter with Pluto that includes long-distance imaging as well as dust, energetic particle and solar wind measurements to characterize the space environment near Pluto. The New Horizon spacecraft wishes to do to Pluto, what the Mariner missions did to Mars, Venus, and Mercury and the Voyager missions did for Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. Exploring the dwarf planet up close is considered a giant leap forward, in the age of space exploration. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute Also Read - All you need to know about the farthest man made object in space - The Voyager 1

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