MUMBAI (TIP): The Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has confirmed the presence of methane on Pluto, Nasa stated on July 1.
“The infrared spectrometer on Nasa’s spacecraft has detected frozen methane on Pluto’s surface,” the statement said.
Earth-based astronomers first observed the chemical compound on Pluto in 1976, “but, these are our first detections,” said Will Grundy , the New Horizons surface composition team leader with the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
With 13 days left for the historic Pluto encounter by New Horizons, designed and operated by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory , at about 5.15 pm (IST) on July 14, after covering a distance of nearly three billion miles and flying for nine years, Nasa on Wednesday released images showing the view from the spacecraft. While zooming towards Pluto the spacecraft tapped its accelerator on Tuesday night and tweaked its path towards the system. It is now moving at 32,500 miles per hour and is about 10 million miles from the Pluto system.
Henry Throop, a member of the spacecraft team, had said that he believed the mission will be successful in what is being held as humanity’s first exploration to Pluto.