Feeds

Pluto probe closing in on Jupiter

Taking pictures while shifting into top gear

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.