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New Horizons probe offers interstellar perspective of neighborhood

by ace
New Horizons probe offers interstellar perspective of neighborhood

The New Horizons probe is already more than 4 billion miles from Earth after it flew over Pluto in 2015 and an object from the Kuiper Belt in 2020. And now she’s conducted an experiment that took her where no human-built ship has ever been: she recorded a truly interstellar view of the sky.

It’s what scientists call parallax, the difference in position generated by a change of perspective. Stars in general are so far from Earth that you have to get too far away from our planet to get a significant parallax. And that’s what New Horizons did. She pointed her telescopic camera at Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, two of the closest stars to the Solar System, to show how different their position is, seen from where it is, compared to our view here of the Earth.

The result may not be revolutionary from a scientific point of view, but it’s fun to demonstrate parallax in images that can be contrasted with the naked eye. The New Horizons sky is already different from ours, thanks to the change of perspective.

Of course, despite this, the probe is still a long way from being a true interstellar traveler. Since its launch in 2006, it has crossed less than a thousandth of a single light-year, and the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years from here. But it’s a start now.

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