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Infographic

Ready for Pluto's close-up

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)

Provides color,
composition
and thermal
maps.

Telescopic
camera maps Pluto's
far side and provides
high-resolution
geologic data.

Ralph

LORRI

Measures atmospheric
composition and
temperature.

Measures
composition and
density of plasma
escaping Pluto's
atmosphere.

REX

PEPSSI

What's on board?

Pluto's orbit

Kuiper
Belt

Detailed below

Jan. '06

Mar. '07-
June '15

Feb. '07

July '15

'16-'20

Launch

Interplanetary
cruise

Jupiter

Pluto
system

Kuiper
Belt*

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

Current image

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

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