New Horizons is a long way away
New Horizons is a long way away
Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Jan. 14 2010 7:52 AM

New Horizons is a long way away

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  



Man, is that way out in the black. The probe is now closer to the orbit of Uranus than it is to Saturn, though both planets are over a billion kilometers away from New Horizons right now.

The solar system is frakkin' BIG (if I may mix my colorful scifi metaphors). If you're still not sure just how roomy things are out there, even at its current speed of 16.5 km/sec (10 miles/sec) -- fast enough to cross the entire United States in five minutes -- New Horizons won't pass the orbit of Uranus until March 18, 2011, more than a year from now. Neptune's orbit isn't until August 24, 2014.

One thing to notice: from this point of view, planets revolve around the Sun in a counterclockwise fashion. Given the position of Pluto, you can see the two are heading for a close encounter soon. Well, for a sufficiently broad definition of "soon": July 14, 2015.

Space is big.

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