Scientists have captured planet Pluto’s first time ever close up view. After nine-and-a-half years and just over five billion kilometers, the much anticipated and incredibly long awaited closest encounter of the planet will be made by NASA’s spacecraft New Horizons Pluto at exactly 9:49:57 pm (AEST) today [14 July 2015].
CSIRO’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) will be the first place on Earth to receive the closest encounter images as it’s sent through from the space probe.
The world would finally see Pluto’s appearance up close, as the spacecraft flies 12,500 km above the surface, taking detailed measurements and images of the dwarf planet and its moons.
Head of CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science, Dr. Lewis Ball, said the New Horizons mission has been one of the great explorations of their time. Reaching this part of the solar system had been a space science priority for years, because it held building blocks of our solar system that had been stored in a deep freeze for billions of years.
While Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet in 2006, it is thought to contain important clues about the origins of the solar system. These icy bodies were thought to be relics of the materials that had originally built up to become the larger planets. This would be the first time that scientists could study the process as it happened.
Dr. Ball said that CDSCC has been involved in many of space exploration’s greatest moments and capturing Pluto would be the capstone of the amazing space adventure. They would be rewriting textbooks and science that would be taught in the classrooms of tomorrow.