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New Horizons Measures the Brightness of Galaxies Before Going Into Hibernation

Accepted submission by takyon at 2017-04-13 16:31:01
Science

NASA's New Horizons probe has measured the "cosmic optical background" [rit.edu] using its LORRI instrument [wikipedia.org]:

Images taken by NASA's New Horizons mission on its way to Pluto, and now the Kuiper Belt, have given scientists an unexpected tool for measuring the brightness of all the galaxies in the universe, said a Rochester Institute of Technology researcher in a paper published this week in Nature Communications [nature.com].

[...] "This result shows some of the promise of doing astronomy from the outer solar system," Zemcov said. "What we're seeing is that the optical background is completely consistent with the light from galaxies and we don't see a need for a lot of extra brightness; whereas previous measurements from near the Earth need a lot of extra brightness. The study is proof that this kind of measurement is possible from the outer solar system, and that LORRI is capable of doing it." Spacecraft in the outer solar system give scientists virtual front-row seats for observing the cosmic optical background. The faint light from distant galaxies is hard to see from the inner solar system because it is polluted by the brightness of sunlight reflected off interplanetary dust in the inner solar system.

New Horizons was put into hibernation mode on April 7th [theverge.com]. The spacecraft is more than half-way to its next destination, 2014 MU69 [wikipedia.org], which it will reach around January 1st, 2019:

Measurement of the cosmic optical background using the long range reconnaissance imager on New Horizons [nature.com] (open, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15003) (DX [doi.org])


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