Updated 02:06 PM EDT, Fri, Oct 22, 2021

NASA Probe Passes Neptune on its Way to Pluto

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NASA's eight-year-old mission to Pluto just passed by Neptune on its journey to the outter-reaches of our solar system. The New Horizons spacecraft is due to rendezvous with our smallest planet next summer. The mission should yield a wealth of information about Pluto, which is still quite a mystery to scientists even though it was discovered some eighty years ago. 

According to Computer World, New Horizons passed through the orbit of Neptune today and managed to snap a photo of the gas giant and its moon Triton. New Horizons is a "piano-sized" ship that contains seven separate instruments designed to tell researchers all about Pluto when it arrives there next July. No probe has ever actually been to Pluto before, so many are understandably excited for next summer when we will finally get to see what the tiny planet is like.

The probe left Earth back in January of 2006 and possesses cameras and spectrometers and other tools that will measure and analyze Pluto's atmospheric content, color, dust, and attempt to discover if the planet has any yet unknown satellites. 

Apparently, the event is to be quite momentous. The mission's head official, Alan Stern, said they're expecting New Horizons' arrival at Pluto to be "a bonanza for science." The reason for all the attention because scientists currently know so little about the planet. It's simply too far from Earth for our telescopes to tell us much about it. It is believed that Pluto is made of around 70% "rock," and has polar caps and at least five moons, reports Computer World.

According to Stern, "Everything we know about the Pluto system today could fit on one piece of paper. Its going to be very exciting. Its the first time in a generation since weve been to a new planet where we go from a single piece of paper of knowledge to being able to write a textbook."

Mark your calendars. New Horizons should reach Pluto on July 14, 2015. 

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