This Is the Space Weather New Horizons Had to Fly Through to Get To Pluto—And It's Very Strange

New Horizons returned some amazingly detailed shots and data of Pluto over the course of its mission—but just what did it have to fly through to get there? So, so much.

Advertisement

NASA put together this visualization of what the spacecraft encountered between January and August on its way to Pluto. The list includes a series of punishing solar winds, but even more curious were some very oddly behaving particle clouds.

Better known as coronal mass ejections, we see those same particle clouds around the Earth. What surprised scientists, though, was that as they reached Pluto, the clouds didn’t have their characteristic “balloon shape” anymore. Instead, they spread out into the thin, arching ring shapes you see below.

Advertisement

So what is this interstellar weather report, besides a trippy look at what’s going on between the planets? It’s also got a lot of potential to help us figure out longer space journeys—perhaps someday even a piloted one. One of the big impediments to traveling further out into space is getting spacecraft that can withstand the radiation and pressure. By getting a better idea of what they’re facing, scientists will also have a better idea of just what they’ll need to build to get through it.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

lostengineer
lostEngineer

Even if the weather's harsh and the sun blooms,

And there is only flung radiation spray and blown flumes,

And all that is out there is only a lonely void and sky,

All I ask is a broad ship and our star to steer her by.