NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft – On July 14, 2015 tiny, far-flung Pluto is about to have a visitor — at least for a few hours. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is speeding toward the dwarf planet. The spacecraft’s most prominent design feature is a nearly 7-foot (2.1-meter) dish antenna, through which it communicates with Earth. For 9.5 years, New Horizons has been traveling across nearly 5 billion kilometers of space. But in recent weeks, on-board cameras have begun to chart the landscape on a world where the atmosphere may freeze for nearly 200 years at a stretch. This photo safari of the outer reaches of our solar system could find Pluto hosts nitrogen volcanoes or hints of a bygone subsurface ocean.
- orbit – The curved path of a celestial object or spacecraft around a star, planet or moon. One complete circuit around a celestial body.
- spectrometer – An instrument used by chemists to measure and report the wavelengths of light that it observes. The collection of data using this instrument, a process is known as spectrometry, can help identify the elements or molecules present in an unknown sample.
- debris – Scattered fragments, typically of trash or of something that has been destroyed. Space debris, for instance, includes the wreckage of defunct satellites and spacecraft.