New Horizons does a far-out parallax experiment

Brian May with OWL viewer

Queen guitarist (and astrophysicist) Brian May, a member of the New Horizons science team, uses his patented OWL viewer to check out the stereo images of Proxima Centauri that he created by combining pictures from Earth-based telescopes and the New Horizons spacecraft. (Photo courtesy of Brian May, via New Horizons / JHUAPL / SwRI / NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons probe has measured the distance to nearby stars using a technique that’s as old as the ancient mariners, but from a vantage point those mariners could only dream of.

The experiment, conducted on April 22-23 as the spacecraft zoomed 4.3 billion miles out from Earth, produced the farthest-out parallax observations ever made.

“It’s fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth,” principal investigator Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, said today in a news release. “And that has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before — to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

About Alan Boyle

Aerospace and science editor for GeekWire, creator of Cosmic Log, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.
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