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New Horizons to the Pluto System: Exploring the Frontier of our Solar System

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New Horizons is the first mission to explore the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt. The spacecraft was launched on 19 January 2006 and will begin its encounter studies of Pluto in early 2015, culminating on 14 July 2015 with a close approach about half-way between Pluto and the orbit of its large satellite Charon. The spacecraft carries sophisticated panchromatic and color imagers, IR and UV mapping spectrometers, a radio science package, two in situ plasma instruments, and a dust counter. I will describe the history of this mission, the science behind it, the capabilities of the spacecraft and payload, the plans for our encounter with planet Pluto, and briefly outline the extended mission later planned to explore ancient Kuiper Belt Objects.

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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