Ten artykuł zatytułowany “Cel Plutona: najmocniejszy zestaw statek kosmiczny epicki spotkanie z naszej planety najdalszych” został napisany przez Robin Mckie, redaktor naukowy, dla obserwatora w sobotę 11 kwietnia 2015 23.05 UTC
Jest to najszybszy statek kosmiczny jaki kiedykolwiek został zainicjowany i została pędzących w kierunku swojego celu w olbrzymiej 36,000mph w ciągu ostatnich dziewięciu lat. Ale teraz inżynierowie Nasa przygotowują się do wprowadzenia ich rzemiosła robota, Nowe Horyzonty, od jego ostatecznego kursu - do malutkiego świata Plutona.
Planowana aby osiągnąć swój cel na 14 Lipca, Nowe Horyzonty już objęła ponad trzy miliardy mil od jego uruchomienia, odległość oznacza, że sygnały z sondy teraz podjąć temat 4.5 godziny dotrzeć do naszej planety.
A kosmiczny porusza się z taką prędkością, że nawet drobne ziarenka pyłu mogą potencjalnie spowodować poważne szkody, jeśli uderzą rzemiosła. "Mamy okrągłe ten problem w bardzo pomysłowy sposób,"Główny badacz misji, Alan Stern, told the Obserwator. “We have given the craft a bullet-proof jacket. To be more precise, we have covered it in Kevlar, the material used to make body armour. That should protect it.”
Perched at the edge of our solar system, Pluto has remained a mysterious world ever since its discovery in 1930. It has an atmosphere of nitrogen and methane and a surface temperature of about minus 230C. It is so distant that to anyone there, the sun would appear as a single point of light, albeit a bright one. Despite its bitterly cold surface, scientists believe it could possess an underground liquid ocean.
Pluto also has five moons, all named after characters in Greek mythology: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra. Very little is known about any of them, and few features can be made out on the planet’s surface.
All that should change in July when New Horizons sweeps past Pluto and its moons, getting to within 6,200 miles of Pluto itself, and within 17,000 miles of Charon. The encounter will be brief, jednak, for Pluto has insufficient gravity to slow down New Horizons and hold it in orbit. Zamiast, the probe will indulge in some of the fastest bouts of data gathering seen in modern space travel.
“We will take hundreds of thousands of photographs and spectral images of Pluto and its moons as New Horizons sweeps past,” said Stern. “In fact we will gather so much information about Pluto and its moons that it will take New Horizons until the end of 2016 to transmit all its data back to Earth.”
That information should transform our knowledge of Pluto. At present, astronomers would struggle to fill a single piece of paper with known facts about the planet. By the time New Horizons has completed its mission, they will be writing textbooks about it. “We have already begun studying Pluto as we approach it, though we are still far off,” said Stern. “There have been no surprises so far but I guarantee there will be several by the time we get there.”
After its encounter with Pluto, New Horizons will speed out into the Kuiper belt, a zone of frozen rocks and asteroids that marks the outer solar system, and will rendezvous with another small planet – yet to be selected – in several years’ time. Our knowledge of the outer solar system will be transformed.
It will be an intriguing mission and a fitting tribute to US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto. In accordance with his dying wishes, Nasa has attached a small container – with some of his ashes inside – to New Horizons. W ciągu kilku tygodni, Tombaugh will finally get to visit the very place that made him famous.
New Horizons will achieve another important task, added Stern. Its data should correct “a gross mistake that is an embarrassment to astronomy”, he told the Obserwator. When the design of New Horizons was being finished 10 lat temu, Pluto was considered to be the only planet that had not been studied by a space probe. That is why the probe was funded and constructed.
But a few months after its launch, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) met and decided that Pluto was not really a planet. It was too similar to several other small icy bodies in the solar system and could not be classified a full planet. So it was downgraded to dwarf planet status.
Stern described the decision as anti-scientific. “Astronomers had found several other worlds like Pluto, so the IAU had the choice: call them all planets or downgrade. It chose the latter because it didn’t want to end up with a very long list of planets in the solar system. Children wouldn’t be able to memorise them. And that is ridiculous. We cannot memorise all the rivers or mountains on Earth. Why do we have to remember all our neighbouring planets. That is 19th-century thinking. Pluto is a real planet and New Horizons is going to show it in all its glory in a few weeks. That should change their minds, if nothing else.”
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