At the beginning of July, the United States became the first country to reach Pluto — and the first country to explore the entire classical solar system: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
NASA’s New Horizons interplanetary probe has been making its way to Pluto since January 19, 2006, and has been providing the world with the sharpest photos ever seen of our Solar System‘s most prominent “dwarf planet.” On the 14th of July, it made its closest approach to Pluto yet — about 8,000 miles — at around 07:49:57 EDT.
Here’s the photo they took — which, despite travelling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), took four and a half hours to reach us here on Earth as it crossed the 3 billion miles between here and Pluto:
That we were able to get so close to Pluto today is a feat whose probability scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson likened to “a hole-in-one on a two-mile golf shot.” He’s right.
Every once in a while, a photo comes along that has the ability to shift not just how we see our place in the universe, but how we see ourselves — not just as Americans, but as citizens of Earth.
This is one of those photos, and I hope you’ll share it with someone today.
Around 8:00 a.m. Eastern 15 July , New Horizons passed within 8,000 miles of Pluto — capturing even better images of the icy dwarf planet than those made earlier in the probe’s approach.
Here is one of those remarkable, newly transmitted images:
It’s been a pretty incredible couple of days.
More soon —