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How NASA beams Pluto images 3 billion miles to Earth

Martyn Williams | July 15, 2015
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is delivering amazing images of Pluto, but receiving them from three billion miles (4.8 billion kilometers) away is no easy feat.

Most spacecraft use a portion of the X-band at 8.4-8.5GHz, which is set aside globally for deep space communications. Because the signals coming back to Earth are so weak, agencies like NASA need a dedicated frequency band to avoid interference from terrestrial sources. Noise is also part of the reason space agencies are now eyeing even higher frequencies, around 32GHz, for future generations of craft.

If you keep a watch on the DSN Now page, you might see the DSN in communication with Voyager 1. That craft launched in 1977 and is now 25 billion miles from our planet -- the farthest a man-made object has ever traveled.

That's about a 36-hour radio round trip.

"We send a signal to Voyager one day, and we come in the next day for the answer," Osman said.


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