As New Horizons and its scientists prepare for the end of a solar conjunction in two days and the resumption of science data downlink from the craft of its historic flyby of 2014 MU69 on New Year’s Day, Alan Stern and his team are busy analyzing the first few datasets returned from the spacecraft before the solar conjunction began on 4 January.
New Horizons current status:
As viewed from Earth, New Horizons is now directly behind the Sun in an alignment known as a solar conjunction. During this period, communications with the spacecraft are not possible due to radio interference produced by the Sun’s atmosphere.
The cessation of communications was known well in advance of the New Year’s Day flyby of 2014 MU69, with the New Horizons science teams understanding they would only get a small amount of data back before all communication with the craft stopped for five days.
An example of a solar conjunction — with Earth and Mars on opposite sides of the Sun relative to each other. (Credit: NASA)
The solar conjunction and communications blackout period will end Thursday, 10 January, at which point the steady stream of data from New Horizons will resume. “The data ...