When I was about 10, I wrote to NASA and got a big packet of color magazines and newsletters on the Space Shuttle and Voyager missions. I loved staying up late watching live PBS coverage of the flybys of Jupiter, and Saturn. At some point I wrote again asking for more stuff, but I got a response saying those materials were now only for educators. I was in college for the flybys of Uranus and Neptune, but I remember the excitement. Tomorrow we will get our first close-up view of Pluto — no longer considered a full-fledged planet, but still part of our solar system.
The spacecraft will whiz over the world’s surface just before noon UTC (07:50 EDT) on Tuesday. It will be too busy taking pictures and making measurements to send that info back to us on Earth; later that evening we’ll get the first telemetry telling us if it survived the encounter. So don’t expect a torrent of pictures Tuesday morning! But Tuesday evening … that’s when the fun begins. Stay tuned. —Bad Astronomy