The New Horizons spacecraft will buzz Pluto and its moons in just one day — one Pluto day, that is. The icy world rotates once for every 6 days, 9 hours and 22 minutes on Earth. Starting at 10:28 p.m. Eastern July 7, Pluto will spin around just one more time before New Horizons makes its closest approach on July 14.
The probe officially begins its “encounter phase” today, scrutinizing Pluto with a suite of cameras, spectrometers and particle detectors. To make the most of its time at the dwarf planet, the spacecraft will only occasionally send highlights back to mission control over the next nine Earth days. By the end of the encounter, just 1 percent of all the data will have been transmitted; the remaining chunk won’t finish downloading until late 2016.