Science & Astronomy
9. July 2015

I feel somewhat obligated to at least post one article about the New Horizons mission, because next to the Rosetta and Philae comet landing the Pluto flyby is easily the most exciting thing happening in space exploration this year. I’m not even going to attempt reporting about the mission in detail because I’m not a journalist, but instead I will try to make some recommendations where you can find the best journalism and information about New Horizons.

But what’s so exciting about Pluto? It isn’t even a planet anymore! That’s what I often hear from people not really familiar with what’s going on in space exploration. The answer is relatively easy: because we (as in humanity) have not been there yet! The Grand Tour of the solar system, which was proposed in the mid-1960s, could have gone to all the planets and much more, but politics slashed the budgets to such an extend that this one-in-a-lifetime planetary alignment opportunity fell to the Voyager Program, which amounted only to a light version of the tour. When it came to decide whether to send Voyager 1 to Pluto or to Titan, the decision was made in favour of the former – and Pluto remained unexplored for almost 40 years. In the meantime, Pluto has even lost its planethood status due to all the new discoveries in its vicinity…

Enter New Horizons – which has a quite a history itself. I recommend the very good Wikipedia Page of the mission for further details, but now on to a collection of links and tips where to get all the current and always up-to-date information about the flyby, which will happen next Tuesday, July 14th, at exactly 11:49:57 UTC. The first brief transmission after the flyby will be only happen late Tuesday and the first new images will be downlinked on Wednesday – Emily Lakdawalla has a must-read, detailed article about what to expect before and after the flyby. But New Horizons has already been busy observing Pluto sending back lots of amazing photos – and had even almost given the scientific community a heart attack by going into safe mode briefly. But everything is fine now and Tuesday’s historic encounter will happen no matter what. Here are the most important links and people to follow:

New Horizons Main Site – This is the official mission website.
New Horizons NASA Site – The NASA website for the mission.
• New Horizons Press Kit – An extensive 42-page press kit from NASA
New Horizons LORRI Images – All images from the Long Range Reconnaisance Imager
New Horizons Youtube Channel – All the video series and hangouts of the mission.
DSN Now – Realtime activity data of the Deep Space Network, useful for checking if NH is transmitting
Emily Lakdawalla from the Planetary Society is one of the best sources for NH.
Universe Today has less breaking news, but more in-depth articles.

The real action will happen on Twitter, though – here are the important accounts to follow:

New Horizons – The official NH Twitter feed directly from Alan Stern.
New Horizons NASA – NH Twitter feed from NASA, mainly retweets from other accounts.
Alan Stern –  NH’s Principal investigator.
Joel Parker – NH’s Co-investigator.
Kimberly Ennico Smith – Deputy Project Scientist
Cathy Olkin – Deputy Project Scientist
Alex Parker – Planetary astronomer working on the NH mission
Kelsi Singer – Postdoc on the NH team
Simon Porter – Scientist working on the NH mission
Jason Cook – Planetary astronomer working on the NH mission
Amy Shira Teitel – Embedded in the NH media team and making Pluto in a Minute!
Emily Lakdawalla – Breaking news from the Planetary Society writer and blogger.
New Horizons Bot – Automatically tweets new images from New Horizons.

I put all of the above into a Twitter List and I also recommend my larger Science & Astronomy and Spaceflight lists, which will probably full of Pluto and New Horizons soon. And because the Weekly Space Hangout and Astronomy Cast are both on summer break right now, have a look at the WSH Crew Google+ Community, where we will discuss and post the latest space and science news! And I think that’s all for now – good luck New Horizons!

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