New Horizons Crosses 10 AU Mark Toward Pluto

New Horizons Path
New Horizons’ Path Towards Pluto
Image Credit: JHU / APL

The New Horizons mission to Pluto will cross the 10 AU (Astronomical Unit) boundary around 9:55 PM Phoenix time late tonight (10 February) or 0455 UTC on 11 February.

At that time, it will already have traveled 22 AU since its high speed launch on 19 January, 2006. New Horizons is currently clicking off the distance at 34,000 miles per hour (almost 55,000 kilometers per hour), and will encounter Pluto and its moons in July of 2015.

The New Horizon mission objectives include:

  • Map surface composition of Pluto and Charon
  • Characterize geology and morphology (“the look”) of Pluto and Charon
  • Characterize the neutral atmosphere of Pluto and its escape rate
  • Search for an atmosphere around Charon
  • Map surface temperatures on Pluto and Charon
  • Search for rings and additional satellites around Pluto
  • Conduct similar investigations of one or more Kuiper Belt Objects
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