Midnight In The Desert — Pluto

NASA just caught a glimpse of the mysterious object New Horizons will reach in 2019

Posted by K R on

NASA just caught a glimpse of the mysterious object New Horizons will reach in 2019

In an effort so astronomically full of cooperation and enthusiasm it could have been scripted, last Sunday, some of the streets near Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina went dark. Streetlights blinked out, and a major highway closed for two hours to prevent the glare of headlights from obstructing the view of 24 portable telescopes all pointing at a distant, unnamed star. Semi-trailer trucks were driven to remote locations to help block the telescopes (and the astronomers crewing them) from the harsh, Patagonian winter wind. Then 60 researchers waited for the star to blink. They were watching for the few fractions of a...

Read more →

New Horizons Flyover of Pluto

Posted by K R on

New Horizons Flyover of Pluto

Using actual New Horizons data and digital elevation models of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, mission scientists have created flyover movies that offer spectacular new perspectives of the many unusual features that were discovered and which have reshaped our views of the Pluto system – from a vantage point even closer than the spacecraft itself. This dramatic Pluto flyover begins over the highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia. The viewer first passes over the western margin of Sputnik, where it borders the dark, cratered terrain of Cthulhu Macula, with...

Read more →

Pluto might be a planet again. Let’s talk about why this matters.

Posted by K R on

Pluto might be a planet again. Let’s talk about why this matters.

Prepare yourself—the Pluto debate has returned, and people are not going to be able to shut up about it. Pluto might be about to regain its It might feel like scientists are jerking you around. A decade ago they all decided that Pluto wasn’t a planet—it was actually a dwarf planet—and now all of a sudden they want to change it back? Maybe you even think that this just goes to show how meaningless it all was to begin with. Planet, dwarf planet—it’s all a made-up system determined by some esoteric group anyway. But categories do matter, and so do...

Read more →

5 Amazing Things We’ve Learned a Year After Visiting Pluto

Posted by K R on

5 Amazing Things We’ve Learned a Year After Visiting Pluto

On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft swept up close to Pluto, giving us our first close look at the tiny icy world since its discovery in 1930. It took all of three minutes for the spacecraft to cross the dwarf planet’s heart-stained face, but it spent much longer sailing through the entire system and staring at Pluto, its huge moon Charon, and the four small moons Styx, Nix, Hydra, and Kerberos. The data it gathered during that fleeting encounter continue to surprise and mystify scientists, just as Pluto continues to be as much a public favorite as it...

Read more →

One year since the New Horizons Pluto flyby, here’s what we learned

Posted by K R on

One year since the New Horizons Pluto flyby, here’s what we learned

One year ago last Thursday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto and forever changed how we think about this frozen world. After more than nine years and three billion miles of traveling through the solar system, New Horizons swung by Pluto and its moons on July 14th, 2015. Although the spacecraft was moving at over 30,000 mph, it managed to capture images and data that revolutionized our understanding of Pluto and Kuiper Belt objects in general. “To say that New Horizons shook the foundation of planetary science is an understatement—discoveries already culled from the pictures and compositional and space...

Read more →