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Posts under tag: pluto

December 11, 2015

New Horizons’ Best View of Pluto is now here.

NASA has just released the highest resolution photographs of the surface of Pluto from the New Horizons flyby (see video above). The images were taken about 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) above the surface of Pluto, just 15 minutes before the spacecraft’s closest approach.

These are also the highest quality images that the spacecraft will ever send back, because they are lossless, or uncompressed. In contrast, the images that were sent back to Earth this summer were compressed in order to transfer more files faster. In a sense, they acted as preview images intended to show what was still to come when New Horizons had the time to transmit the full data set. (The spacecraft began a year-long process of downloading the remaining data this past September.)

For more information, check out this press release from NASA

July 24, 2015

More news from Pluto

This image is a mosaic of the dwarf planet Pluto in true color.

This image is a mosaic of the dwarf planet Pluto in true color.

NASA held a press conference today explaining and displaying some of the new data being received from their New Horizons spacecraft that recently flew by Pluto and its moons.

The image above is a showing the same face of the dwarf planet made famous July 14th but in greater detail both in color and topography. This resolution allows us to see features as small as 2.2 km in size or about double the clarity of the July 14th images. Additionally, Pluto’s atmosphere was imaged upon the spacecraft flying by which shows a hazy cover reaching upwards of 50 km above the surface which you can see in the link below.

For more information and images from the New Horizons probe, check out NASA’s website for the mission.


July 9, 2015

A new photo of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft

Pluto as seen from the New Horizons Spacecraft taken July 7, 2015.

A composite image of Pluto as seen from two cameras onboard the New Horizons spacecraft from eight million kilometers away. Photo credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

The New Horizons spacecraft has acquired another view of Pluto from just under eight million kilometers away (roughly five million miles). As of today, the spacecraft will be about six million kilometers from the dwarf planet and will have its historic flyby on July 14. Pluto exhibits large swaths of dark and light material that most likely hydrocarbon-based perhaps frozen methane.

The Pluto flyby will be exactly that: the New Horizons will get as close as 12,500 kilometers from the surface of Pluto and will capture the best images anyone has ever seen of the dwarf planet and its main moon, Charon — then after about a day, will continue on to view other Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs). As the craft leaves the Pluto system, New Horizons will take some images as it passes through its shadow to verify the existence of an atmosphere. According to current spectroscopy, the atmosphere is primarily methane.

For more information on the new photo, check on this article from the BBC.

Additionally, designed a scale model of our solar system based on the Earth’s moon being 1 pixel in size. Click here for more.

July 1, 2015

Frozen methane detected on Pluto


The dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon, Charon as taken by the New Horizons spacecraft from 11 million miles away. New Horizons will fly by the Pluto system on July 14, 2015. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)


The New Horizons spacecraft from NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has confirmed observations from Earth-based astronomers that there is frozen methane on Pluto’s surface. The original observation was made in 1976 from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

In addition, new images show the view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, from 11 million miles away. As it rotates, Pluto displays a strongly contrasting surface dominated by a bright northern hemisphere with a darker band along its equator. Charon has a dark polar region but there are some brighter surface variations at lower latitudes.

For more information on this news from New Horizons, check out this article from NASA.

April 16, 2015

Sorry, Pluto: You’re really not a planet

Pluto from the New Horizons project, 71 million miles away

The first color image of Pluto sent back by the New Horizons probe. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

In 2006, Pluto was officially demoted from “planet” to “dwarf planet.” But this debate flared up again earlier this year, when astronomer David A. Weintraub wrote a column predicting that Pluto would be returned to “planet” status sometime in 2015. And it will likely remain in the news for the next few months, as the New Horizons probe becomes the first spacecraft to visit Pluto in July.

Before that happens, we need to get one thing clear: there are very good reasons why Pluto isn’t a planet.

“There are eight bodies in the solar system that dominate the others,” says Mike Brown, the Caltech astronomer who in 2005 discovered Eris — a dwarf planet more massive than Pluto — and wrote How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. “Those eight are planets, and the other thousands are not.”

His point isn’t just that the eight planets are orders of magnitude bigger than Pluto (though they are). Equally important is the fact that in terms of size and location, Pluto fits neatly in a group with dwarf planets like Eris, Haumea, Makemake, and likely thousands of undiscovered rocks that orbit in the Kuiper belt, outside Neptune. If we really want to call Pluto a planet, our list of planets is going to be expanding dramatically in future years.

For more of this article by Joseph Stromberg, check out