The NASA New Horizons spacecraft is short-lived before the historic span near the dwarf planet Pluto, and we have a good opportunity to explore the remote satellite of Pluto Hydra.
Hydra's Motion Visualization
During scientific missions last July, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera was used to search for the Hydra satellite in preparation for a rapprochement with Pluto. The mission will be used to detect any unnoticed moons and debris - obstacles that are potentially dangerous for the probe.
New Horizons will make a series of long exposure photos in May and June 2015, just before meeting with Pluto next July.
LORRI used the Hydra as an object for a series of photographs (48 photographs) with a shutter speed of 10 seconds. These images were then combined to take a high contrast photograph of the Pluto area. A topographical survey showed an overexposed Pluto (white ball in the center) and an overexposed artifact of only a few pixels. But the camera did its job, the Hydra satellite was identified. Interestingly, mission scientists did not expect to see a satellite, which is estimated to be 19-52 miles in diameter, because the New Horizons mission at the time of the shooting was at a distance of 267,000,000 miles from the target. Therefore, the fact that the LORRI camera and the latest imaging methods were able to detect such a small object assured the team that they were able to identify any dangerous objects in advance.
"Using the latest photography techniques, Hydra jumped right out of the data, although it was still very weak (several times weaker than the smallest object that the camera should have fixed in theory), despite the fact that the mission is already on its way to Pluto, "said John Spencer, a member of the New Horizon Scientific Mission at the Southwestern Research Institute. "We were very pleased to discover this satellite, as it proves that our satellite detection methods are working and the camera is in perfect order. It was also very exciting that we were able to visually observe the third satellite of the Pluto system," he added.