Local Planetarium Celebrates Pluto Flyby

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – New Horizons blasted into space in 2006. Tuesday morning, scientists at mission control broke out into cheers as the spacecraft finally flew past the most famous dwarf planet in our solar system.  We’ve now gotten up close to every planet from Mercury to Pluto.

“Today was the big day,” said Susan Barnett at Broward College’s Beuhler Planetarium. “We actually passed by Pluto, traveling at over 30,000 miles per hour we got to within 7,000 miles of the planet.”

The photo is the most detailed picture ever taken of Pluto.

Until now, New Horizon has sent back pictures that look like blobs, then blurred, fuzzy, colorful pictures.  By Wednesday the world should get an even more incredible view.

“We will be seeing a thousand times better,” said Barnett,  “the resolution on the camera we’re hoping to see images down to a hundred meters across, so about the size of a football field.”

Space exploration experts around the country are marveling at the close up look we’re getting at Pluto seeing things they’ve never seen before.  “The most exciting thing is that there’s the possibility of volcanism on this planet, perhaps tectonic activity, indicated by long linear features and possible smooth areas like this,” Barnett said.

That area’s nicknamed “The Whale.”  And next to it, is tugging at the heartstrings, an areas shaped like a heart. “I think the most dramatic is that Pluto is sending us a valentine,” Barnett said.

These latest incredible pictures and the ones to come give more than just scientific information, they can also spur the imagination.

“Who knows maybe we can go further than Pluto now, to a different galaxy or something,” said stargazer Raj Deonarine.

And New Horizons is already heading to the edge of the solar system.

“New Horizons has enough fuel to keep actually talking to us for about 20 more years so who knows what else we will discover out there,” Barnett said with a smile.

The Beuhler Planetarium at Broward College is offering a program Wednesday evening at 7pm, concentrating on the new pictures from Pluto.  So is Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. FAU’s Observatory, Department of Geosciences, as well as the University Libraries will host “PlutoPalooza,” a free, open house event that will showcase various aspects of the science involved with the mission.

The open house will take place on Tuesday, July 14 from noon to 9 p.m., and Wednesday, July 15 from noon to 6 p.m., at FAU’s Astronomical Observatory in room 434 of the Science and Engineering building (SE-43), 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus. Complimentary parking is available in lots 4 and 7, as well as Garage 3, however, complimentary one-day parking passes must be obtained from the FAU Information Booth at the campus’ Glades Road main entrance.

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