It boggles one’s mind that this little space explorer, the size of a grand piano, has been travelling for more than nine years, over three billion miles and is still whirling through space. It’s also amazing to know that none of us alive now will ever see this thing happen again. There is no planet that we’ve not seen up close. The little New Horizons has zoomed by them and taken pictures.
To make things clearer (ha), this was the best picture we had of Pluto in May on the left and this is today, on the right. The “heart” that you see is about 1,000 miles across and sits just above Pluto’s equator.
It is hard to fathom that it takes 4.5 hours for the data from New Horizons to travel the 3+ billion miles… it’s going at the speed of light.
Of course, there’s another reason I am so interested in this mission – the leader of it is the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, part of the massive Johns Hopkins educational and medical system, located right here in Baltimore. Actually, the APL is about 20 miles down the road, but everything else is here in Baltimore.
One really lovely story associated with New Horizons is that in this tiny little space capsule were some of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who is credited with “discovering” Pluto in February of 1930. Some of Tombaugh’s children were at the APL today when New Horizons passed by Pluto. Such a fitting tribute that his ashes are now truly among the stars.
Are you as interested in this whole thing as I have been? Do tell!