Chandra Looks to Pluto

On July 14th, the New Horizons spacecraft will fly by Pluto during its unprecedented mission to the outer Solar System. In addition to the data gathered by New Horizons and its suite of instruments, other telescopes – including the Chandra X-ray Observatory – will be pitching in to help astronomers learn more about this distant and icy world.

New Horizons Spacecraft
Artist conception of New Horizons Spacecraft.
Credits: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

In the upcoming weeks, Chandra will collect data on Pluto to follow up on previous observations taken in February 2014. Astronomers will be looking for X-ray emission that could be produced when the solar wind (the stream of particles flowing away from the Sun) interacts with the atmosphere of Pluto. The detection of X-rays can potentially provide critical information on the rate at which Pluto’s atmosphere is escaping into interplanetary space.

To read more about Chandra’s role in the New Horizons mission, as well as those of many other NASA telescopes, visit

-Megan Watzke, CXC

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