12 May 2016 – “New Horizons” or why it has taken 18 months to get photographs from Pluto


Gareth, M5KVK  began by saying his talk would focus on US space probes starting in 1958 with the launch of the sub orbital Explorer satellite which resulted in the discovery of the Van Allen Belt. He then detailed each launch through the years and how each built on the knowledge learned from earlier flights. How the problem of a power supply was solved for use beyond the influence of the sun and how communications had to be improved to cope with the increased distances when images can be as large as 10Mb each, which explains why they take so long to be transmitted the almost five billion miles to earth!

close up Pluto

On July 14 the telescopic camera on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took the highest resolution images ever obtained of the intricate pattern of “pits” across a section of Pluto’s prominent heart-shaped region, informally named Tombaugh Regio. The image is part of a sequence taken by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft passed within 9,550 miles (15,400 kilometres) of Pluto’s surface, just 13 minutes before the time of closest approach.