Science community lauds New Horizons Pluto flyby

Scientists laud the New Horizons mission as the spacecraft gathers new data, takes images of Pluto.

Members of the New Horizons science team react to seeing the spacecraft's last and sharpest image of Pluto before closest approach later in the day, Tuesday, July 14, 2015, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft was on track to zoom within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto on Tuesday. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

(MEDIA GENERAL) – As NASA spacecraft New Horizons continues its way through space, scientists and science enthusiasts have taken to social media to express their feelings on Tuesday’s historic Pluto flyby.

Ranging from pride in this historic human achievement to cracking jokes about the journey, everyone is excited to see new images and new data on our solar system’s smallest “planet.”

The crowning achievement was memorialized with its own Google doodle.

NASA and its partners carefully crafted the New Horizons mission to gather as much information as possible about the icy dwarf planet and are thrilled the early results. Although the spacecraft officially made its flyby at 7:49 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, NASA already has leaked early findings about the planet related to new data gathered by New Horizons.

New Horizons’ preliminary scans measured Pluto to be slightly bigger than scientists thought. Scans showed the planet’s diameter is approximately 1,473 miles, fitting in scientists’ estimate for the planet, but toward the larger end of its spectrum.

Data received by the spacecraft also led researchers to believe Pluto is comprised of more ice than originally believed and has a shallower atmosphere than expected.

From here, New Horizons will venture further into the Kuiper Belt to investigate other space objects. NASA reportedly is expected to submit a proposal to extend New Horizons’ mission to other Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). The spacecraft appears to be in fine shape and could operate and submit signals for up to another 20 years.

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