After traveling across more than 3 billion miles of space for nine years, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is about three months away from its closest approach to the dwarf planet Pluto. At its closest approach in July, New Horizons will fly within 7,700 miles of Pluto, enabling the spacecraft to take extremely detailed images.
Designed and built by students at the University of
Colorado, Boulder, the counter detects dust grains
produced by collisions among asteroids, comets
and objects within the Kuiper Belt.
*Pending NASA approval
On average, the instruments onboard consume
between 2 and 10 watts — about the power of a
night light — when turned on.
Student Dust Counter (on underside of craft)
camera maps Pluto's
far side and provides
density of plasma
What's on board?
New Horizons could produce images of Manhattan
that would provide enough detail for viewers to
count the ponds in Central Park.
New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever
launched, reaching lunar orbit distance in just nine
hours and passing Jupiter 13 months later. The
spacecraft operates on less power than a
pair of 100-watt household light bulbs.
Simulated image quality
To Pluto and beyond
Best direct image of Pluto, Hubble Space Telescope
in March 1996
Sources: NASA, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute, Space Telescope Science Institute, European Space Agency, Lowell Observatory, Google Earth. Images of New Horizons and Pluto by Steve Gribben at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Graphics reporting by Deborah Netburn and Raoul Ranoa