● See images from NASA.
The world will get an unprecedented view of Pluto on Tuesday when a NASA spacecraft launched nine years ago nears the icy dwarf planet. To commemorate the historic event, the NASA Ames Research Center is inviting the public to watch a live broadcast as New Horizon begins its closest approach of Pluto and comes within 7,800 miles of the planet's surface.
Measuring about the size of a piano, the New Horizons spacecraft was launched in 2006 as part of a NASA goal to reach every planet in the solar system. During its 3 billion-mile voyage, the spacecraft swung around Jupiter to boost speed by using the large planet's gravitational pull. Last month, the probe awoke from a hibernation period, signaling it was on schedule to arrive for the closest look yet at Pluto and the surrounding Kuiper Belt.
The moment of closest approach will be marked during the live NASA TV broadcast that includes a countdown and discussion of what's expected next as New Horizons makes its way past Pluto and potentially dangerous debris.
A live viewing event is planned for Tuesday afternoon, but attendance was capped at 300 people who pre-registered. For those not in that lucky group, live video of the New Horizon approach will be available at the NASA website.