NASA's New Horizons examines 'alien sky' on the edge of the solar system



NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has had a significant resume launch. It flew to Pluto in 2005 and a decade later, mimicked the heart-shaped glory of the dwarf planet. It has continued on its journey to a strange, two-tier world known as the "bizarre" last year. As it moves to the edge of the solar system, NASA scientists turn its cameras toward the sky, causing some stars closer to the Earth to look at spacecraft.

 In a NASA release on Wednesday, the project's lead researcher, Alan Stern, said, "It's fair to say that New Horizons is looking at the alien sky in contrast to what they see from Earth."

In April, the New Horizons team showed spacecraft cameras on two wires: Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359. Proxima Centauri is a star closest to our solar system, Proxima Centauri is about 7.9 light-years away. At that time, the spacecraft was 4.3 billion miles (about 7 billion kilometers) from Earth. It was able to conduct interstellar "parallax" experiments a long time ago because it was too far between the intrepid robot explorer and home.

Parallax is a term used to describe how objects move when viewed from different angles. NASA gives a great example: hold your finger in front of your face and close one eye. Then switch - open another eye and close the open eye. As the viewing angle is slightly changed, the background behind your finger will also look slightly different.

Scientists can use observation to find out where stars are in space. If you take a picture of the Proxima Centauri from Earth in December, take another picture in June, using the angle of how far you have left the stars.

If you have a camera far enough to the ground you can also reduce that heavy waiting period and take pictures at the same time. This is where New Horizons comes in. New Horizons captured Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 on April 22 and 23. At the same time, telescopes on Earth are taking pictures of two stars. If you look at the pictures side by side, you can see the stars in different locations. They do not move - but our angles.

New Horizons team member Todd Lore said, "The New Horizons launch delivers the largest parallax baseline ever ... and this is the first appearance of an easy-to-see star parallax."

Queen guitarist Brian May, a prominent astrophysicist who helped create the images, and the imaging buff were evenly sliced.

"The latest New Horizons stereoscopic experiment breaks all records. These photos of Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 - te are famous stars for astronomers and science fiction." She said.

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