New Horizons may just be flying by Pluto, but it is doing a lot of science! This is Pluto in a Minute.
The New Horizons science suite contains seven distinct instruments each of which has multiple sensors for more data-gathering capability. The spacecraft will return among other things both surface images and maps in both high resolution black-and-white images and colour images. It will also gather composition maps, temperature maps, topographic information, as well as data on Pluto’s atmospheric composition.
What’s super neat about New Horizons’ science payload is that it’s super light! Consider that New Horizons left the Earth traveling faster than any spacecraft has before. It’s also traveling at a whopping 31,000 miles per hour. To be able to go that fast, the team had to keep the spacecraft’s weight down. All seven of New Horizons’ instruments weigh less than the camera on the Cassini orbiter currently around Saturn.
The instruments also draw a very low amount of power. All seven can be functioning and draw just 28 watts per second. That is half the power needed to illuminate a lightbulb.
During its flyby of Pluto that will last from July 7 to July 16, New Horizons will gather some 44 gigabits of data that will keep scientists both busy and happy for months to come.
For more on Pluto be sure to check out the New Horizons websites, and tweet your questions using the hashtag #PlutoFlyby. And of course, come back everyday for more Pluto in a Minute.