Feeds

Pluto probe closing in on Jupiter

Taking pictures while shifting into top gear

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The New Horizons space probe, hurtling through our solar system towards Pluto, is about to slingshot around Jupiter.

As it passes by our largest planet, NASA mission managers are planning to test all its systems with a series of detailed observations of Jupiter's ring and moon system and scans of its turbulent atmosphere.

New Horizons spots Jupiter's spots

The probe, which NASA expects to reach the Pluto system by 2015, is already the fastest spacecraft in history, and has (almost) reached the giant planet in less time than any craft ever launched. At the end of February, it will use its close pass of Jupiter to gain an additional 9,000mph taking its velocity past 52,000mph.

"Our highest priority is to get the spacecraft safely through the gravity assist and on its way to Pluto," says New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute. "We also have an incredible opportunity to conduct a real-world encounter stress test to wring out our procedures and techniques, and to collect some valuable science data."

NASA says the probe will collect more than 700 images of Jupiter, its four largest moons, and its ring system. It will also take the first close-up images of the "Little Spot", a brewing storm close to the famous giant red spot.

The space craft will also be the first ever to travel down the long tail of Jupiter's magnetopause - the side of its magnetic field that streams away from the sun, shaped by the solar wind.

A rather indistinct view of Pluto

The on-board computer systems will not stream the data back to Earth in real-time, rather they will store the data and transmit it all in one go, once the gravity assist manoeuvres have been accomplished. By eary March, New Horizons will turn its antenna back to Earth and transmit its precious data back to mission control before continuing its long journey to the ex-planet Pluto.

Once it reaches Pluto, New Horizons will have five months to study the little world and its system of moons. After that, it will continue hurtling through the Kuiper Belt, where it may carry out additional observations of other worldlets. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.