NASA probe sees weird ‘Dotted Line’ on Pluto – then signal cuts out
A NASA probe sent back mystifying images of the surface of dwarf planet pluto – then the signal cut out.
The probe sent back a strange image of a ‘dotted line’ on the surface of the planet, which scientists admit is a ‘real puzzle’.
The craft’s main computer malfunctioned hours later, and scientists are now working to revive the craft.
The probe is powered by a Star Trek-style ion drive – and has ‘slept’ for nine years on its journey to Pluto.
Over the next few months, New Horizons is set to unlock the secrets of Pluto, a distant, icy world which has never been seen except as a distant dot in our telescopes.
‘It’s a real puzzle – we don’t know what the spots are, and we can’t wait to find out,’ said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern.
‘Also puzzling is the longstanding and dramatic difference in the colors and appearance of Pluto compared to its darker and grayer moon Charon.’
On Saturday, an unknown glitch caused New Horizons to switch to a backup computer, which triggered an 81-minute break in radio communications with mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, NASA said in a status report.
The work is complicated by the 4-1/2 hours it takes to send a set of signals to the spacecraft, which is nearly 3 billion miles from Earth.