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New Horizons probe sends home images from greatest ever distance

February 10, 2018 Leave a comment

 

Kuiper Belt objects - New Horizons, Dec. 2017

These false-color images, obtained by New Horizons in December 2017, show two Kuiper Belt Objects: 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85. These photographs are the most distant ever obtained by a spacecraft. They are also the closest any camera has ever come to celestial objects in the Kuiper Belt. Image courtesy NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and Southwest Research Institute.

NASA’s New Horizons probe, which electrified astronomers and other space enthusiasts with its 2015 fly-by of dwarf planet Pluto, has now set a record for the most distant photographs ever obtained by a human spacecraft.

On Dec. 5 the probe snapped an image of the Wishing Well galactic open star cluster. New Horizons was then 6.12 billion kilometers from Earth.

That beat the previous photography transmission record set in 1990 by Voyager 1 when it was about 6.06 billion kilometers from our home planet.

But the little probe that can was not yet finished.

Two hours after sending home the Wishing Well imagery, New Horizons obtained and transmitted photographs of Kuiper Belt objects 2012 HZ84 and 2012 HE85.

All of the December 2017 photographs were captured via the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager, an 8.8 kilogram-sized digital camera-type device equipped with a telescope lens and reinforced to function in the cold of space.

New Horizons visited Pluto in 2015. During that historic rendezvous, the spacecraft approached to within 13,000 kilometers of the dwarf planet.

The probe has been in hibernation mode since Dec. 21, 2017.

 

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Largest known planet to orbit two suns is discovered

June 15, 2016 Leave a comment
Kepler planet comparison - courtesy NASA GSFC, graphic by Lynette Cook

This graphic shows the relative size of several known circumbinary planets. Kepler-1647b is about the size of Jupiter. Courtesy NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, graphic by Lynette Cook.

Scientists have found a planet about the size of Jupiter orbiting two stars in a nearby solar system, marking the largest known example of a world with multiple suns.

The circumbinary planet, which has been named Kepler-1647b, is in the constellation Cygnus, about 3,700 light years from Earth. Astronomers used the Kepler Space Telescope to discover it.

“It’s a bit curious that this biggest planet took so long to confirm, since it is easier to find big planets than small ones,” Dr. Jerome A. Orosz, an astronomer at San Diego State University and a co-author of a paper documenting the discovery, said. “But it is because its orbital period is so long.”

Kepler-1647b’s orbital period is 1,107 days, which means it takes longer to orbit its stars than any other known exoplanet takes to orbit either one star or two.

The planet’s circumbinary orbit made it more difficult to find than would be the case with an exoplanet that circles one star.

“The transits are not regularly spaced in time and they can vary in duration and even depth,” Dr. William F. Welsh, another SDSU astronomer and co-author of the paper explaining the discovery, said.

Kepler-1647b orbit

This graphic provides a “bird’s eye” view comparison of the orbits of the Kepler circumbinary planets. Kepler-1647 b’s orbit, shown in red, is much larger than the other planets (shown in gray). For comparison, Earth’s orbit is shown in blue. Graphic courtesy NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, graphic by B. Quarles.

A gas giant, Kepler-1647b is has a similar age as Earth – about 4.4 billion years. The two stars it orbits are similar to our sun, with one being a little larger than the Sun and the other slightly smaller than Earth’s star.

The discovery of Kepler-1647b is described in a paper to be published in Astrophysical Journal.

 

 

 

 

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I am a do-it-yourselfer. I have written how-to books on sustainable permaculture gardening, natural home canning, baking sourdough bread and solar cooking.

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