Astronomy Picture of the Day – New Horizons Launch to Pluto

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2015 July 12

New Horizons Launch to Pluto
Image Credit & Copyright: Ben Cooper

 

Explanation: Destination: Pluto. The New Horizons spacecraft roared off its launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA in 2006 toward adventures in the distant Solar System. The craft is the fastest spaceships ever launched by humans, having passed the Moon only nine hours after launch, and Jupiter only a year later. After spending almost a decade crossing the Solar System, New Horizons will fly past Pluto on Tuesday. Pluto, officially a planet when New Horizons launched, has never been visited by a spacecraft or photographed up close. After Pluto, the robot spaceship will visit one or more Kuiper Belt Objects orbiting the Sun even further out than Pluto. Pictured, the New Horizons craft launches into space atop a powerful Atlas V rocket.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 September 10

Rollback from GRAIL’s Rocket
Image Credit & Copyright: Ben Cooper (Launch Photography) 

Explanation: This dramatic time-lapse photo traces a 20 minute long, late evening rollback of the lighted Mobile Service Tower at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 17. Twin spacecraft are snug inside the 13 story tall Delta 2 rocket poised for launch. The duo will journey to the Moon on NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission, GRAIL, using precision formation flying to map the Moon’s gravity field. The scene was captured prior to the first launch attempt, canceled due to upper level winds, on September 8. Further launch opportunities for GRAIL begin this morning, September 10. The GRAIL launch is the last one planned from Complex 17 on Cape Canaveral’s oldest still active pad, in use since 1957.